Psychological benefits to kindness
When we look at the world today, many may say that the act of kindness has become obsolete. Often times we hear the numerous stories of persons being cruel and unkind; seeking self gratification at the risk of possibly hurting others, but I am happy to present the benefits in being kind. Perhaps as we welcome this Christmas season, we would all make it our responsibility and duty to be kind to persons around us and to ourselves.
From a biological standpoint, it’s proven that kindness and giving act like a natural anti-depressant because they release serotonin in the brain. Serotonin plays an important part in learning, memory, mood, sleep, health and digestion. It provides children (and adults) with a heightened sense of well-being, increases energy and gives wonderful feelings of positivity and self worth.
Researchers found that being kind benefits givers by not only improving well-being but also popularity. The study succeeded in increasing both happiness and peer acceptance among preadolescents through a simple pro-social activity with 9- to 11-year-olds. As peer acceptance is of high importance among youth, being well liked also increases feelings of self-esteem and inclusion. The study also concluded that students who are happy and well-liked by classmates exhibit more inclusive behaviours and less externalizing behaviours such as bullying.
Interestingly, another study that tracked 681 students showing kindness toward strangers, friends, and family determined that being kind to strangers increased self-esteem more than pro-social behaviour towards family or friends.
Better Physical Health
According to Dr David Hamilton, Ph.D. “acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone, oxytocin, in the brain and throughout the body. Of recent interest is its significant role in the cardiovascular system.
Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure). The key is that acts kindness can produce oxytocin and therefore kindness can be said to be cardioprotective.”