How Kindness Affects Our Happiness and Wellbeing

 

Red heart in flower pot with Chinese painting art style, Chinese meaning means enjoying love.

 

 

 

If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a month, get married. 
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody else. 

Chinese Proverb 

 

There is a wealth of evidence to prove how acts of kindness have a powerful effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. Studies have shown that being kind is linked to increased feelings of happiness, wellbeing and life satisfaction. In a recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation63% of UK adults agreed that when other people are kind it has a positive impact on their mental health, and the same proportion agreed that the act of being kind to others boosted their mental health. 

The Mental Health Foundation have chosen kindness as the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Chief executive Mark Rowland, says “One thing we have seen all over the world is that kindness is … helping people to connect and communities to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic… We want to use Mental Health Awareness Week to celebrate the thousands of acts of kindness that are so important to our mental health”. 

An act of kindness nurtures the giver and the receiver

Being kind produces serotonin in the body. This ‘happy chemical’ is known to improve your mood and foster a feeling of calm. When you are kind to another, your brain’s pleasure and reward centres light up increasing feelings of happiness. This reduces stress and anxiety and gives us energy. 

Kindness is good for your heart

Oxytocin is the main contributor to heart health outside of exercise. Sometimes called the ‘kindness hormone’ or ‘cardioprotective hormone’ it is produced by the body when you commit an act of kindness. Oxytocin causes the release of nitric oxide which opens up the blood vessels and lowers blood pressure keeping our hearts healthier.  

Kindness reduces pain

Kindness produces endorphins which are the brain’s natural painkiller. Endorphins deal with stress and reduce feelings of pain. 

Kindness can give your immune system a helping hand

How we feel emotionally, physically affects our immune system. Being kind reduces stress and so, by default, minimises production of the stress hormone cortisol allowing the immune system to work more optimally. 

A little bit of kindness goes a long way. Kindness is circularly contagious, like the way a wave travels outwards in a circle when you drop a pebble in water, says Dr David R Hamilton, author of The Little Book of Kindness. He explains that when you are kind to a person, they will be kinder to an average of 5 other people over 24 hours. Each of those 5 people continues the act of kindness resulting in 125 people benefiting from a single act of kindness. “Each time you are kind, you really are impacting far more than just the person you help”. 

The smallest acts of kindness have a huge impact.  Consider these simple acts:

  • Make time for a friend 
  • Compliment a stranger 
  • Stand up for a cause you believe in 
  • Reach out to someone going through a difficult time 
  • Tell someone you are proud of them  

They may seem random and small but can have a powerful effect on both yourself and the recipient.