5 Ways Kindness Boosts Your Emotional Well-Being

Did you know that giving is the gift that keeps on giving? That’s right—showing kindness to others is a surefire way to increase your own well-being, all while helping someone else. Whether you’re opening the door for a senior citizen, participating in a fundraiser or charity event, organizing a neighborhood cleanup effort, volunteering, or simply offering kind words or favors to friends and family members, it’s a good idea to keep your eyes open for big and small ways to help.

That’s because, in addition to bettering the lives of those around you, you’ll find that regularly engaging in acts of kindness will create a bunch of benefits for your overall health and well-being. From stimulating that mix of brain chemicals known to trigger the “helper’s high” to reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, researchers keep finding more reasons why acts of kindness keep us feeling happier and allow us to fulfill our purpose—benefits we can reap no matter how often we help. Read on for a plethora of proof that demonstrates why kindness is a great habit to develop at any age.

From stimulating that mix of brain chemicals known to trigger the “helper’s high” to reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, researchers keep finding more reasons why acts of kindness keep us feeling our best. Click To Tweet

The Many Benefits of Kindness

1. Kindness releases feel-good chemicals.

That well-being boosts you feel when helping a fellow human isn’t all in your head—well, actually, it is. Researchers have reported that kindness creates those great feelings within us due to a boost in the brain chemicals oxytocin as well as dopamine. This is what causes the euphoria known as “helper’s high.” But here’s another interesting finding: Even mentally sending kindness to others can improve mental health. For example, one study that involved veterans with PTSD found that the participants who performed loving-kindness meditations experienced a decrease in their PTSD symptoms. The positive change over time in the veterans’ depressive symptoms “was greater for loving-kindness meditation than for cognitive processing therapy,” the results stated.

2. Kindness can diminish feelings of depression and anxiety.

A 2022 study from Ohio State University (OSU) similarly found that acts of kindness may be more effective than cognitive behavioral therapy for tackling other common mental health issues. The study randomly assigned individuals with elevated anxiety or depression symptoms to engage in acts of kindness, social activities, or thought records (also known as cognitive reappraisal). The acts of kindness could include anything that helped others and required some effort from the participants—a big or small contribution, such as cooking for someone, lending a hand, or sharing positive notes with friends. At the end of the study, the acts of kindness group demonstrated more improvement in the categories of depression/anxiety symptoms and overall life satisfaction.

3. Kindness increases social connection.

In the OSU study, researchers theorized that performing acts of kindness was helpful because it requires a shift in attention from oneself to others’ needs, at least for a time. Indeed, most of us have heard the advice to “Get outside yourself,” often shared when someone’s feeling down. But, even more interestingly, the acts of kindness group, by the end of the study, felt more social connection even than the group instructed to plan social activities. In today’s technology-driven, post-pandemic world, when it’s common for people of all ages to feel disconnected from each other, driving those social connections is more important than ever. And it boosts wellness, too: A nearly 80-year-long study at Harvard found that close relationships, more than other factors like money or fame, are the keys to happiness in life. Finally, remember that kindness is contagious, so you’ll likely create a ripple effect across many more people than you realize.

4. Kindness increases your sense of life satisfaction.

A 2009 study that included adult participants of a range of ages (from 18 to 60) looked at ways to increase life satisfaction. One group was chosen to perform acts of kindness every day for 10 days, while another group was asked to try “acts of novelty” (new experiences), and a third group did no unusual acts. Life satisfaction was measured before and after the 10-day experiment, and the groups performing acts of kindness or acts of novelty resulted in an increase. Because novelty was also an important factor in increasing happiness, it’s a great idea to switch up the ways you help others for an added boost.

5. Kindness never loses its allure.

When it comes to helping others, there’s more good news: The well-being boost from giving does not fade over time. Most of us know that, generally, the more we’re exposed to something that makes us feel happy—such as food or money—the less enticing or exciting it becomes. We’ve all been there: The same ol’, same ol’ can lose its luster. But giving to others does not get old in the same way. Instead, it steadily maintains its benefits over time. One study showed that when participants were offered a cash prize to accept for themselves or to give to others, those who chose the first option experienced a decline in happiness over time, while the group of givers did not. The takeaway: Give and give some more—it’ll never stop feeling great!

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