By: Diane M. November 16, 2015 Follow Diane at @DianeMacEachern
Being nice or kind is often touted as a way to do something good for someone else. But in addition to helping others, being kind turns out to be just as good for the person extending the kindness as for the person receiving it, if not more so. Here are 7 surprising ways being kind is so good for you, it makes you healthier!
1) Being kind increases your overall sense of happiness and well-being. Dr. Stephen Post of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love says being kind generates a side effect he calls “the giver’s glow.” One of the top five factors contributing to lower depression rates is “giving to neighbors and communities,” according to a study conducted in Great Britain, reports the Denver Post. Don’t believe it? Try it yourself. See if you don’t feel good if you help someone across the street, make a meal for a neighbor in need or donate to a cause you know needs the help.
2) Being kind reduces stress. There is a strong link between random acts of kindness and stress reduction, says Lauren E. Miller, a breast cancer survivor and author of “Release the Stress around Breast Cancer…”, who also says that gratitude for acts of kindness figures into the equation.“When you are grateful and practicing random acts of kindness in your life, you end up feeling safe and connected to that which is good and true in this world and the result is inner calm, clarity of thinking and a heart full of love.”
3) Being kind builds emotional resilience. Numerous studies have shown that receiving, giving or even witnessing acts of kindness increases immunity and the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood in the brain, reports Psychology Today. Being kind may even nourish one’s sense of purpose and meaning, which can help you get through tough times relatively unscathed.
4) Being kind can help overcome addiction and alcoholism. Being kind to others by volunteering has long been promoted as an important way for an addict to recover. “By volunteering, you not only give back, you also help yourself to start to feel self-worth again,” says the website of the Promises Treatment Center. “You will matter to people who need you, and that can be a powerful agent for making more positive changes in your life.”
At the same time, extending kindness to addicts helps them recover. “Too often, drug addicts and alcoholics are treated as though they are horrible people with low moral standing,” writes Dr. Michael Weiner. But dwelling on transgressions…”only makes an addict feel worse about themselves than they did before.” On the other hand, the warmth and kindness shown by therapists, family members and friends goes a long way in helping people recover. “I know from personal experience that a little kindness and straightforwardness eases a patient’s journey through rehab,” says Weiner, a former addict who has also treated hundreds of patients for addiction.
5) Being kind reduces depression, ulcers and heart disease. When researchers at Harvard University showed one group a film about Mother Teresa’s work and another group a neutral film, they documented an increase in the production of protective antibodies in those who watched the film about giving. “Performing kind acts provides social contact and reduces feelings of depression, hostility and isolation, which can lead to overeating and ulcers,” as well as heart disease.
6) Being kind may help you live longer. Volunteering frequently to help others is associated with delayed mortality among older adults, according to a Stanford University study. In fact, people who volunteered a lot had 63 percent lower mortality than non-volunteers, mostly due to their greater physical activity, health habits and social support networks. Plus, a study of elders in assisted living shows that helping activities improved residents’ mental health by creating positive attitudes toward aging, a sense of connectedness and improvements in feelings of control and life satisfaction, as well as decreased depression and mortality.
7) Being kind builds good karma. I happen to be someone who believes, “What goes around, comes around.” Be mean and cruel to someone and that’s what will come back at you in spades. But be nice, thoughtful, generous and helpful? That’s what will return to you time after time, too. As I tell my kids, “Be kind. It doesn’t cost you anything, and you’ll get back a whole lot more than you give.”
And don’t forget: being kind to animals is just as good for you as being kind to other people.
“When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace” says the Dalai Lama. So…go for it!