World Kindness Day

Boost Your Health with Acts of Kindness

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By Earlexia Norwood, M.D.

World Kindness Day is recognized on November 13 of each year, and on that day, you might think of iconic figures like Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi. These figures lived their lives in service to others sharing acts of kindness and compassion. What might surprise you, is that research shows kindness to also be good for our health.

Our brains have positive psychological reactions with even simple acts of kindness. Chemicals released during the act of helping someone else help reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, decrease blood pressure, protect our hearts, lessen aches and pains, strengthen our immune system and slow aging.

Showing kindness is easy, free and doesn’t require a prescription to realize the health benefits. Even a simple smile can have healing powers. For example, when we smile, we produce the hormone oxytocin in the brain and throughout the body. Oxytocin releases nitric oxide in the blood vessels, expanding the vessels and helping lower blood pressure.

The health benefits of kindness have even been seen in people who witness kind acts. So not only will a kind act benefit you, but those around you!

Not sure where to start? Incorporating kindness into your day is easier than you think. Buy a colleague a cup of coffee, say hello to a stranger, offer to babysit or mow the lawn for a neighbor.

Here are five tips to help you purposefully infuse being kind into each day.

  1. Recognize your ability to show kindness. Anyone can make a positive impact on someone else’s life. The first step is realizing your ability to be kind. Think about others who have helped you and how it impacted your day. Write this down on a sticky note and put it someplace visible. Remind yourself daily to be thoughtful in trying to find ways to help others.
  1. Search for opportunities to impact. Keep your eyes open and be on the lookout for individuals in need. Search for opportunities to make an impact. You’ll be surprised to find opportunities all around.
  1. A kind act can be small. A kind act doesn’t have to be big, expensive or time consuming. Try to incorporate a few small acts of kindness during your day. Say hello, hold a door open or bring an extra cup of coffee to a colleague. Write down a few ideas at the start of each week and see how many you can complete.
  1. Offer no strings attached. When people help someone else, the recipient may feel something is expected in return. If you bring a neighbor dinner, do this without strings attached. The act of kindness becomes more authentic and genuine with this expectation. If the recipient of your kind act is searching for a way to repay you, suggest they pass it forward to someone else.
  1. Take note of how you felt. Capture the way you felt after you offered the act of kindness. Did you walk away feeling less stressed, calmer? How did the person you helped react? Did you notice any changes? Write down what you observed to inspire you to continue to incorporate kindness into your day.

Continue to search for opportunities to show kindness, the more you practice the easier it becomes. Little acts of kindness can add up to make a big difference in your happiness and your health.

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