Benefits of showing kindness to others

Benefits of showing kindness to others

Showing kindness to others can do more than make their day better – it can also make you healthier and happier.

“There is so much research about all the benefits of volunteerism and acts of kindness,” says Sandy Pyle, RN, oncology nurse navigator at the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support at Piedmont Athens Regional.

Research has suggested that random acts of kindness can:

  • Be contagious – when other people see you do something good, they may feel more motivated to follow suit

  • Boost energy and happiness

  • Decrease stress, anxiety and depression

  • Help you have a more positive attitude

  • Improve your sense of life satisfaction

  • Increase your lifespan

  • Increase serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin, the body’s feel-good chemicals that improve your mood, reduce pain and boost feelings of love

  • Light up your brain’s pleasure sensors, giving you a “helper’s high”

  • Lower your blood pressure

  • Strengthen your relationships

Ideas for acts of kindness

There are so many ways to show kindness to others, using your unique gifts to serve those around you. Kindness could mean a gift, a compliment or encouraging word, helping someone with a chore or task, offering a hug, or spending quality time with someone.

Consider what would best suit the recipient. If you don’t know someone very well, a hug or unsolicited advice may not be appropriate, while an encouraging word or small gift may be well-received. 

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Using your crafting skills. “The Loran Smith Center is the beneficiary of a group that knits caps and makes beautiful quilts for our chemotherapy patients,” says Pyle. “We also have groups who make heart-shaped pillows for our post-mastectomy patients and teacups for patients in the hospital. People who receive these gifts are oftentimes so touched by these acts of kindness.”

  • Show your support. Pyle facilitates a breast cancer support group and says she has women who have continued to come to the group meetings nine and 10 years out from their diagnosis. “They come back and I know it’s to help women who are new to the group, who have just been diagnosed,” she says. “That’s where I see the giving and the acts of kindness: when they share their story, what they went through and how they got through it.” 

  • Give someone a compliment. Do you love your coworker’s earrings or the shoes of the woman in front of you at the store? Tell her!

  • Donate to charity. Pick a cause you believe in and give money to support it.

  • Pay for the person behind you in line at the drive-thru or for the meal of someone sitting near you at a restaurant.

  • Let someone cut in front of you in traffic.

  • Offer to let someone with fewer groceries go ahead of you in line at the supermarket.

  • Bring a meal to a friend who has a lot on his or her plate – perhaps a recent cancer diagnosis, the loss of a loved one or the birth of a new baby.

  • Offer to do a chore your spouse or partner doesn’t like to do, such as taking out the trash.

  • Send a note to a loved one who lives far away.

  • Leave your server a large tip after your next meal.

  • Write a thank-you note to a healthcare provider who has helped you in a difficult circumstance.

  • Send a loved one flowers for no reason.

Finally, Pyle encourages you not to put too much pressure on yourself to serve others if you are going through intense medical treatments or have received a difficult diagnosis. While putting others first can boost your mood, you don’t have to be strong for everyone all the time.

“Your feelings are valid, and what you are going through is really crummy,” she says. “You don’t always have to be a pillar of strength. It’s OK to curl up on the couch, but it’s also important to get up off the couch and do something you like to do.”

Learn more ways to reduce stress and improve your well-being.

References:

The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley

National Institutes of Health

Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

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