Why Practicing Acts of Kindness Improves Your Own Well-Being

handshake health.jpg.662x0 q70 crop scaleHappy New Year! It’s that time of year again when we shed our regrets from the year past and resolve to start the new year in the best way possible. Maybe you have resolved to work on wellness, to exercise more or to practice mindfulness on a daily basis. Or perhaps you made a resolution to buckle down and be more productive at work and to move towards professional success. Or still yet, maybe you resolved to make improvements in your community through acts like volunteering. But what if there were a resolution you could make that would impact all of these areas at once? A practice, only taking a few minutes each day, that would improve your wellbeing, make you more successful in your work endeavors, and positively impact society? Think it sounds too good to be true? Well according to Cedars Sinai, practicing daily acts of kindness can achieve just that.  

In their blog, the staff at Cedars Sinai outline how scientific research has proven that practicing acts of kindness releases chemicals in the brain such as oxytocin, sometimes called the “love hormone”, which is responsible for “making us more trusting, more generous, and friendlier, while also lowering our blood pressure.” In addition to oxytocin, practicing kindness causes the brain to release dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters also released during exercise. Dopamine when released while we exercise is responsible for what some people call a “runner’s high” but when released while practicing acts of kindness it is instead called a “helper’s high”. Additionally, serotonin helps to regulate your mood, appetite, and sleep cycles, staving off depression and anxiety and improving an overall sense of well-being. Even more, Dr. IsHak of Cedar Sinai, says that engaging in acts of kindness is “believed to increase levels of an endorphin-like chemical in the body called substance P, which can relieve pain. 

Sounds pretty good so far right?! But wait, there’s more! Author and psychologist Shawn Achor argues that the happiness we gain from practicing random acts of kindness, can inspire us to be more productive, intelligent, resilient, and creative. Moreover, Achor maintains that practicing kindness is one tool we can implement to rewire our brains to be more positive and in turn, happy. In his Ted talk, Achor explains that we tend to believe that once we achieve success we’ll find happiness, when in fact, it is the opposite. Through his scientific research, Achor has proven that the more happy and positive we are, the more we are likely (through our increased productivity etc.) to find success. You can see Achor’s Ted Talk here:

So go ahead and send a nice email to a colleague, hold the door for the person behind you, let someone in while in traffic, or greet your neighbors on your morning walk...maybe this year we should all resolve to improve our health, find success, and to make the world a better place, one small act of kindness at a time. 

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
Lao Tzu