Did you know that kindness may benefit the giver as much as the receiver? Here’s how.
From the time you were a small child, you were taught the golden rule—treat others the way you would want to be treated. Whether at home or at school, performing acts of kindness was encouraged, praised and rewarded. Doing something good for others, you learned, benefited the recipients of your kindness and generosity. But it probably didn’t take you long to figure out that being kind also made you feel good, too.
And that good feeling you have when you perform an act of kindness? It’s more than just fleeting. It can have long-term positive effects on your mental and physical health. So being kind is a win-win for everyone involved.
Here are 8 ways that kindness may benefit you:
- Increases self-esteem. When you do something good for others, it makes you feel good about yourself. It’s a great way to enhance your feelings of self-worth.
- Elevates mood. It’s hard to be in a bad mood after you’ve been kind to someone and see the result of your actions. Being kind boosts serotonin and dopamine, the brain’s pleasure and reward centers, which increases feelings of well-being. This is referred to as a “helper’s high.”
- Enhances connectivity with others. Being kind builds empathy and compassion. This can help you better relate to people which can improve relationships with family, friends and even strangers. It can also make you feel less lonely.
- Lowers stress. Being kind may lower the release of cortisol, a stress hormone. This can in turn reduce stress. Chronic stress is known to have numerous detrimental effects on both physical and mental health.
- Reduces pain. An act of kindness may also release endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller. Endorphins interact with opiate receptors in the brain, reducing the perception of pain.
- Decreases blood pressure. Being kind or witnessing acts of kindness may produce oxytocin, which causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide that dilates blood vessels. This helps lower blood pressure. Keeping stress at bay also improves blood pressure.
- It may even help you live longer. People who volunteer for selfless reasons may live longer, according to research. One study showed that people age 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have a 44% lower likelihood of dying early than those who don’t.
No one loses when you show kindness to others. And being kind shouldn’t be reserved for how you act towards others—it’s also important to be kind to yourself. Think of it like the reverse of the golden rule: Treat yourself as you would treat others. Sometimes that’s not as easy to do, but being kind to yourself is imperative for your overall well-being.
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Date Last Reviewed: December 14, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD