We’ve all heard such phrases as “paying it forward” and “do unto others”, but it turns out there’s actually a substantial amount of scientific backing behind the principle of doing good for others. We all know that doing good feels good, but there are also a multitude of other benefits that profit not only others, but ourselves as well.
According to research, being kind to others has a whole slew of benefits; kindness can increase:
A 2010 Harvard Business School survey of happiness in 136 countries found that people who are altruistic—in this case, people who were generous financially, such as with charitable donations—were happiest overall.
“About half of participants in one study reported that they feel stronger and more energetic after helping others; many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth” Christine Carter, UC Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center
“People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.” Christine Carter, Author, “Raising Happiness; In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents”
- The Love Hormone
Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, occasionally referred to as the ‘love hormone’ which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart-health. Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we’re anxious or shy in a social situation.
Like most medical antidepressants, kindness stimulates the production of serotonin. This feel-good chemical heals your wounds, calms you down, and makes you happy!
According to research from Emory University, when you are kind to another person, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up, as if you were the recipient of the good deed—not the giver. This phenomenon is called the “helper’s high.”
Also according to research, being kind to others can decrease:
Stephen Post of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self- realization and physical health is significantly improved. Mortality is delayed, depression is reduced and well-being and good fortune are increased.
A group of highly anxious individuals performed at least six acts of kindness a week. After one month, there was a significant increase in positive moods, relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance in socially anxious individuals. University of British Columbia Study
Perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age slower than the average population!
Engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins—the brain’s natural painkiller!
- Blood Pressure
Committing acts of kindness lowers blood pressure. According to Dr. David R. Hamilton, acts of kindness create emotional warmth, which releases a hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and, therefore, oxytocin is known as a “cardioprotective” hormone. It protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.
So what can you do for others? Simple! You can take little steps throughout your day to commit acts of kindness.
- Give someone you love a compliment
- Buy someone a coffee
- Donate to a charity close to your heart
- Put your shopping cart away when you go to the grocery store
- Use a travel mug for your morning coffee
- Send an encouraging email
There are so many things you can do to make others life, and your life, a little better!
By: Marion White, MHC – LP, EAP Counselor
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