Baking some goodies for a neighbor, picking up rubbish on the beach and purchasing a thank you gift for a friend. We know these acts of kindness greatly improve the lives of others, but you may be less aware that they are actually fantastic for your own health and can even increase your lifespan! To emphasise the health benefits of kindness, we have summarised a useful fact sheet from Dartmouth University.
- Reduced blood pressure
Holding a door open for a stranger isn’t the type of strenuous activity you would expect to have physiological benefits right? Wrong! Acts of kindness can reduce blood pressure through the release of the Oxytocin hormone that “causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels.” This “protects the heart by lowering blood pressure”, creating a healthier you!
- Energy boost
Buying a friend a coffee to help stimulate their day is often used as an example of kindness, but did you know helping others can have coffee-like physical effects? The fact sheet cites a UC Berkeley study which showed participants felt “stronger and more energetic after helping others’’. Looks like it’s time to replace that grumpy morning coffee run with an act of kindness…
- Lower levels of stress and anxiety
The well-being of others is often the last thing on our minds when we are consumed in stress. However, being kind to others has been scientifically proven to tackle stress! The University of British Columbia conducted a study where anxious people “performed at least six acts of kindness a week”. The study found “significant increase in positive moods, relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance in socially anxious individuals.” So next time you feel overwhelmed at work, think of something that you can do to brighten the day of another.
- Increased self-esteem
Assisting others is a fantastic way to lift your own mood. The fact sheet references a 2010 Harvard Business School Study survey conducted in 136 countries which found those who provided financial donations to others had the highest rates of happiness. This shows giving to others is a great way make you feel better about your own self-worth!
- You’ll live longer!
Before you get too excited, kindness isn’t your ticket to immortality, but it has been scientifically proven to increase lifespans! The fact sheet quotes author Chrisine Carter, author of “Raising Happiness; In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents”, who believes acts of kindness help humans live longer! She cites evidence that “People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organisations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sitting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status and many more.”