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Kindness and Mental Health

Make Every Day Random Act of Kindness Day!

We are all taught to be kind to each other when we are kids, but as we grow up we often forget that valuable lesson and the importance of kindness. There are multiple benefits to kindness that can improve our own lives and society as a whole. While Random Acts of Kindness Day comes around once a year, we want to put the focus back on being kind to others every day as a way to improve our emotional wellness and the wellness of those around us.

            Studies show being kind to others can benefit your mental and physical health. Kindness releases positivity and reduces stress. Showing kindness toward others increases the production of the hormone oxytocin (which is associated with feelings of love and optimism) and the neurotransmitter serotonin (which is involved in healing, calmness and happiness) and can reduce anxiety and depression. Kindness also can increase your energy and self-worth. And, creating a community of kindness can help reduce loneliness and isolation. So, in an effort to help improve our emotional wellness. 

Here are some random acts of kindness that you can get started with:

  • Hold the door open for a stranger.
  • Check in with your friends and loved ones. You never know who may be needing support or could be unable to ask for it. Use the ‘Say This Not That’ tip sheet from our Each Mind Matters resource center to help speak openly about mental health and let people know you care.
  • Put back a neighbor’s garbage bins from the curb.
  • Call someone who you haven’t spoken with recently, like a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time or a relative you’ve been meaning to call but haven’t. Hearing someone’s voice can re-establish and strengthen your relationship with them.
  • Give back to your community by volunteering for a local organization or charity. Giving your time to an organization in your community can set an example for others to do the same. Consider volunteering for a mental health organization in your community.
  • Pay for the coffee or tea of the person in line behind you.
  • Pick up litter in public spaces.
Remember, it is just as important to receive kindness as it is to show kindness. Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. Support yourself like you would a loved one or close friend. Treat yourself! Practice self-care to allow yourself to recharge and feel better, even if only for a few moments.

    Benefits of Kindness

    Small acts of kindness can have enormous power for both the person being kind and the recipient, whether that’s a stranger or someone in the same family. Many studies have found that kindness, compassion and giving are associated with:

    1. Improved happiness
    2. Good mental health
    3. A stronger immune system
    4. Reduced anxiety, stress and depression
    5. Improved relationships
    6. A longer life

    Research also shows that the happiness people get from giving to others creates a ‘positive feedback loop’. The more you give, the more positive you feel. This, in turn, fuels greater happiness.


    Mental Health Benefits of Kindness

    Being kind can go a long way toward improving your emotional wellbeing. A 2019 study in The Journal of Social Psychology found that people who performed kindness activities for seven days saw a boost in happiness. The degree to which their happiness increased was directly tied to the number of acts of kindness they performed.1

    “Giving back to society is not a purely altruistic concept—we feel better by giving or being kind, therefore the act benefits both parties,” says Meghan Marcum, PsyD, chief psychologist at A Mission for Michael, a mental and behavioral health treatment center in Southern California.

    There are a few reasons why being kind benefits our mental health, including biological and social effects.

    “Performing acts of kindness has measurable impacts on our mental health by increasing the neurotransmitters in the brain that make us feel satisfied and overall good: serotonin and dopamine," says Rachel Slick, LCSW, a behavioral health clinician at UCHealth, which recently launched a health initiative focused on random acts of kindness.

    "Random acts of kindness toward others can increase oxytocin, which is a hormone that makes us feel connected to each other and that we can trust each other,” Slick says. These three chemicals can have a profound impact on our mood and overall happiness.

    Being kind can help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well. A study in the journal Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science found that people who practiced a kindness mindset had 23% lower cortisol levels than the average person.2

    What’s more, doing something nice for others helps strengthen social ties and the sense that you’re part of a community.

    “These acts can help you feel more connected with others which helps strengthen a sense of belonging and can directly influence loneliness and improve relationships,” says Diana Samuel, MD, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

    Slick adds that this effect is especially important right now, when many people are feeling lonely and isolated during the pandemic. “It is important to foster a sense of connectedness even when we may not be spending time together face-to-face,” she says.

    Given its proven emotional benefits, kindness is now sometimes used as a part of treatment for depression and anxiety, says Hoorie Siddique, PhD, a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist and owner of Embolden Psychology. “For many of the young folks I work with, I actually recommend volunteering or community service as part of the treatment plan. And practicing kindness decreases overall anxiety and depression.”




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