It feels good to do something nice for someone you love. Think about the happiness you feel when a loved one opens a present you bought for them. Those who celebrate Christmas, will experience this soon. Doing a good deed for a random stranger also feels good. It turns out that the good feelings you experience have health benefits. Perhaps as we explore how acts of kindness improve your health, we will all be inspired to do more good deeds.
Good deeds are contagious
Studies show that witnessing an act of kindness also makes you feel good. This is likely why the “pay it forward” phenomenon has taken hold. That feel good sensation inspires you to help others. In turn, your acts of kindness make others feel good and inspire them to help random strangers.
What causes you to feel better
When you engage in a random act of kindness serotonin is released. This is the same chemical that is released when antidepressants are taken. It naturally enhances your mood and has a calming effect. Even though you are the one doing a good deed, the reward center in your brain is activated, which makes you feel as though someone did something nice for you.
How acts of kindness improve your health
When you simply watch someone do a good deed, a hormone called oxytocin is released. This hormone improves heart health by lowering your blood pressure. In fact, kind deeds are twice as effective as aspirin for heart health. As an added benefit, this hormone also boosts your self-esteem. This in turn makes you more confident as well as optimistic.
Stress management & pain
Repeated acts of kindness lower your cortisol levels. People with lower levels of this stress hormone tend to have less inflammation, sleep better, have more energy during the day, and age better. Doing good deeds also promotes the release of endorphins. Endorphins can be thought of as a healthy and natural form of morphine. They help you to feel good and reduce pain and discomfort. They also improve immune function and help to manage anxiety and depression.
Giving back helps you live longer
Volunteering can help you live longer. Studies show that adults who are at least 55 years old and volunteer with at least two organizations are 44% less likely to die at an early age. Amazingly, this study did not factor in overall health, whether the participants smoked or not, exercised or not, and if they were married. The scientific data proves that volunteering regularly is more important than moderate exercise when it comes to increasing lifespan.
Doing good deeds has short term as well as long term benefits. Acts of kindness improve your health and make you feel good. In this, the season of giving, perhaps the best gift we can give ourselves and others is to engage in random acts of kindness. It makes others feel good and inspires them to do good deeds. This in turn, helps us all to feel better, be healthier and potentially live longer.