How random acts of kindness can improve your wellbeing
The whole concept of random acts of kindness centres on the idea that you express a kind behaviour or action to another being with no expectation of reward or reciprocal act. Random acts of kindness breaks from the often-unspoken norm of the social exchange – reciprocity, or ‘in kind.’ It is, in essence, acting altruistically for a brief moment in your day.
Random acts of kindness are sometimes viewed as dropping a few coins into a busker’s instrument case, buying a coffee for the person behind you in line, or placing your spare change into the charity box at the supermarket. But these acts don’t have to be financial. Taking that extra second to hold the elevator for someone, smiling to someone as you pass them on the street, or even stopping to ask someone if they need help loading their shopping into the car – a time-investment of a few seconds or minutes is all it takes. In a time of increasing isolation, simple acts of kindness can contribute to an increased sense of community and belonging.
The benefits of random acts of kindness are multi-dimensional, and a wonderfully unintentional benefit is that both receiver AND giver feel better for the interaction having taken place!
Studies have demonstrated that performing simple random act of kindness a day leads to a reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression. The main chemical linked with these acts is Oxycontin, which is considered the “love hormone” and aids in reducing blood pressure and improving self-esteem and optimism. This chemical is linked to social bonds and is tied to making us friendlier and more trusting. For context, cuddling a dog or stroking a cat stimulates the brain’s production of Oxytocin! So many warm and fuzzy feelings.
Other chemicals such as Dopamine (think that momentary rush of euphoria every time you win a level of Candy Crush) are released when giving or receiving kindness; Endorphins are released which trigger a positive feeling in the body because the chemical is produced to relieve stress and pain, and is naturally released when you exercise (ever heard of “runner’s high”?); and Serotonin is released, which calms us and increases our happiness levels. And when you demonstrate kindness towards another person, the pleasure and reward system of the brain lights up like a proverbial Christmas tree, as if YOU were the one who received the kindness!
randomactsofkindness.org is an incredible website with so many ideas and resources for promoting kindness in your everyday life. Some of them are so simple, like being kind to your server (let’s be honest, it takes nothing to throw them a smile and a ‘thank you’ but it can make their day!) or praising a local business online, to writing down someone’s best qualities and sending it to them as an email or a letter (such a lost art!).
Noting the year that we’re having thus far, displaying kindness to others means more than ever before. You don’t have to give much, but what you give can change someone’s day, or in some instances, their life.