How Acts of Kindness Influence Mental Health
Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga
Every year, on November 13th, we celebrate World Kindness Day. The purpose of this unique day is to remind ourselves to treat people with more kindness and consideration. So, have you ever thought about how acts of kindness can influence your mental health? It turns out that being kind not only benefits those who receive it, but it also influences those who give it!
In this blog post, we will investigate how acts of kindness influence mental health to make everything a little better.
Increases the Love Hormone
Kindness brings about the release of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone” or “bonding hormone.” Individual acts of kindness have also been shown to generate new neural connections and release oxytocin and endorphins. According to data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, just thinking about compassion and kindness activates the brain’s emotional regulation system (Mathers, 2016). That is why oxytocin has been linked to emotional closeness, trust, and affectionate feelings. For example, simply hugging a friend or family member can cause the release of oxytocin, making you feel more emotionally connected to them. They will also feel a lot better if you do this; even if they aren’t particularly sad or worried, a hug can go a long way to make someone feel cared for.
Improves Self Esteem
Kindness can help you feel better about yourself. More importantly, seeing how good an impact your acts of kindness have on people will strengthen your belief in your own abilities and worth as a person. Consider the following scenario: You offer to help a friend who is having trouble with schoolwork. You become a source of comfort as well as motivation for them during these difficult moments. Not only will you boost your self-esteem, but your friend will glow with happiness at having you as a friend. This will in turn improve their self-esteem and mental health too!
Kindness has a powerful, scientifically tested ability to support emotional and physical healing. Kindness can be used as a form of natural painkiller. In one study of homeless adults who frequently visited the emergency department, researchers wanted to see if providing compassionate care through trained volunteers made a difference in how frequently these individuals returned for additional emergency visits. According to Redelmeier et al. (1995), patients who received compassionate care had a significantly lower average number of visits per month following intervention. This suggests that when homeless individuals see that they are receiving kind and compassionate treatment, they may be more satisfied with their initial treatment and not need to return as frequently.
Individuals can develop resilience by being kind to others and receiving kindness in return. This is especially important during difficult times, such as when dealing with loss, illness, or other challenges. Knowing that you can be kind to yourself and others can give you the strength you need to overcome tough times. Beaton et al. (2021), for example, discovered that lower levels of self-compassion in adults with ADHD help to explain the higher levels of ill being (depression, anxiety, and stress) and lower levels of wellbeing (psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing) associated with ADHD. Furthermore, they have proposed that increasing one’s kindness to oneself could be used to support resilience and coping for those with ADHD who face difficulties because of executive function deficits.
Creates Positive Social Connections
According to research, kindness creates positive supportive and meaningful social connections, which in turn reduces stress response and fulfils fundamental, innate needs that are important for longevity and well-being (Fryburg, 2022). Simple gestures such as complimenting a coworker on their work can help to establish these kinds of connections. Furthermore, it has been discovered that even a few minutes of practising techniques such as loving-kindness meditation enhanced feelings of social connection and a positive attitude toward strangers (Hutcherson et al., 2008).
You now understand that kindness has the power to make life happier and emotionally fulfilling as well as to make yourself more resilient by increasing oxytocin levels, lowering stress levels, creating positive social connections, and much more! So, as we celebrate World Kindness Day, keep in mind that including kindness in your daily life can bring you and others happiness.
- Beaton, D. M., Sirois, F., & Milne, E. (2022). The role of self-compassion in the mental health of adults with ADHD. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 78(12), 2497–2512. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.23354
- Fryburg, D. A. (2022). Kindness as a stress reduction–health promotion intervention: a review of the psychobiology of caring. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 16(1), 89-100. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1559827620988268
- Hutcherson, C. A., Seppala, E. M., & Gross, J. J. (2008). Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 8(5), 720–724. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0013237
- Mathers, N. (2016). Compassion and the science of kindness: Harvard Davis Lecture 2015. The British Journal of General Practice, 66(648), 525–527. https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp16X686041
- Redelmeier, D. A., Molin, J. P., & Tibshirani, R. J. (1995). A randomised trial of compassionate care for the homeless in an emergency department. Lancet, 345(8958), 1131–1134. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(95)90975-3