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For the past few years, the world has endured periods of fear, illness, political mudslinging, disastrous weather, and many more stress-inducing events. Now more than ever, people need kindness. People need love. Sadly, the world doesn’t seem so kind and loving towards one another. People have a tendency to put their own interests above others, particularly during times of high stress and uncertainty. It makes the world a scarier place. What the world really needs is a little more kindness, which just so happens to have its own kickback with several health benefits.

Recent research has been revealing how beneficial kindness can be for our mental and physical health. [1] Your kindness has the surprising ability to not only benefit the person receiving the kind act, but also could benefit others witnessing your generosity. Yes! It helps people who see a selfless act. You’re making the world a better place and potentially getting a kindness kickback yourself.

How does kindness benefit physical and mental health?

5 Healthy Benefits of Kindness

1 – Kindness Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Studies have shown that kindness is not only contagious to observers, but a kind act can even have a positive effect on the mind through its natural boost of serotonin and dopamine. These “happy hormones” contribute to feelings of contentedness and satisfaction. [1] Connecting with other people through a kind act may also reduce feelings of loneliness, isolation, and even contribute to a better mood. Those who regularly participate in acts of kindness may have lower cortisol levels as well. Since cortisol is known as the “stress hormone,” increased levels can affect hormonal health and longevity long-term.

In fact, helping someone may also contribute to a calmer and less depressed state of mind after doing a selfless deed for someone.[2] Kindness catches on, leading to others feeling more compelled to do a kind act for someone after witnessing a selfless deed.

2 – May Reduce Inflammation

One study found that volunteering had the strongest association with lowered inflammation. [3] The study found that volunteering could be protective against inflammation and some of the health concerns associated with it. Between several acts of selflessness that were studied – volunteering, caregiving, donating food/clothing, etc. – the greatest reduction of inflammation was correlated with volunteering specifically.

Scientists also noticed that women in the volunteer group displayed higher rates of anti-inflammatory responses in the body.  That doesn’t mean you should ignore your body’s food allergies and other contributing factors of inflammation, but it’s a good sign that showing kindness to strangers through a selfless deed is quite beneficial for your health!

3 – Kindness Supports Natural Energy

One study from the University of Berkley found that 50% of people felt more energetic and stronger after helping others. [3] Volunteer work in particular has a strong correlation with a person’s energy and confidence. Being kind might give you more energy to do further good deeds for both people you know and for people you’ve never met before!

You may have heard of the effect experienced by runners when they get a boost of endorphins that make them feel stronger and more confident: The athletic community refers to this feeling as the “runner’s high,” but did you know that you don’t have to be a runner to experience this effect? There are plenty of other activities and behaviors that can cause a similar effect as the “runner’s high,” especially when participating in a good deed without any self-serving motives behind it. In fact, helping someone may contribute to what psychologists call a “helpers high,” which causes a more energetic state of mind after showing a bit of kindness to someone. [3]

4 – Kindness Could Ease Pain and Discomfort

The same endorphin release that provides a “helper’s high” could affect levels of pain as well. Kindness releases dopamine, serotonin, and endogenous opioids for natural pain relief. These neurochemicals act as natural painkillers, providing relief from physical discomfort and even supporting the overall feeling of contentment. [1]

When an individual exhibits kindness, their brain responds by producing endorphins, which interact with the brain’s receptors to affect the perception of pain and encouraging a mild euphoric feeling. Therefore, a kind act can serve as a natural reward system, reinforcing selfless, compassionate behavior by facilitating the body’s production of “feel-good” hormones. [1]

5 – Selfless Deeds Can Promote Longevity

Volunteering is the perfect example of how the physical and mental health benefits of kindness may add up over the long run. When motivations are focused on serving others and making a difference in the lives of others, people who volunteer are more likely to live longer than people who don’t volunteer or who volunteer for self-serving reasons. [4]

To illustrate this idea further, another University of Berkley study found that senior citizens who volunteered regularly for 2 or more organizations had a 44% reduced risk of mortality during the course of 4 years as the study was conducted. [4] However, the research only correlates these benefits to selfless motivations – rather than self-serving motivations, such as seeking to boost one’s resume with community service work – behind volunteer work and other acts of kindness.

Enjoy the Kindness Kickback

If you are in a position to be kind – do it! We all have the ability to make even a small difference in someone’s day, because kindness doesn’t have to be monetary, nor does it have to be a full day of community service work. It costs nothing to give someone a genuine compliment, show sincere appreciation to the people serving you in restaurants or bagging your groceries, or to open a door for someone.

Don’t forget to be kind to yourself as well!

It’s important to find ways to manage stress and prioritize your health. After all, we aren’t going to be able to care for others effectively if we aren’t taking care of ourselves first: Similar to the oxygen mask protocol that the flight attendants remind us of before takeoff, you need to secure your own oxygen mask first before trying to take care of your child’s oxygen mask. Find a Wellness Way clinic near you to determine whether your selfless deeds are providing your body with the physical health benefits you deserve.

Find new ways every day to show a little kindness to yourself and others, and make it contagious! We could all use a little kindness kickback right now. Be kind to yourself and to other people, even those you have never met – Doctor’s orders!

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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