Acts of Kindness
When you do something nice for someone else, it can actually make you feel better too. This isn’t just something that happens coincidentally – it has to do with the pleasure centres in your brain. Doing nice things for others boosts your serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well-being. Like exercise, altruism also releases endorphins, a phenomenon known as a “helper’s high” (1).
Being nice to others can also affect the actual chemical balance of your heart. Kindness releases the hormone oxytocin. According to David Hamilton, a doctor and best-selling author, “oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart.” Oxytocin also helps reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body can be associated with all sorts of health problems such as diabetes, cancer, chronic pain, obesity, and migraines. Kindness can actually help manage or prevent illness (2).
Not only that, but in our busy, always-on-the-go lives, we’re constantly looking for ways to reduce stress, and kindness may be one answer. Helping others allows you to step outside of yourself and take a break from the stressors in your own life, and this behaviour can also make you better equipped to handle stressful situations (3).
Acts of Kindness can be as simple as holding the door open for a stranger, smiling at people around you, donating money to a charity, or doing a work colleague a small favour. If someone thanks you, ask them to just “pay it forward” by doing something for others.
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