What does it mean to be kind? Kindness reveals itself in the way we act towards others, and towards ourselves. And it turns out that acts of kindness don't just benefit recipients; they can also have demonstrable effects on your own physical and mental health.
The Science of Kindness
According to Psychology Today, the physiological effects of kindness go beyond personal satisfaction. Physically, for example, people who volunteer tend to have fewer aches and pains. In one kindness study, half of the participants reported feeling what researchers call a "helper's high," which is a distinct physical sensation that some described as making them feel stronger and more energetic. As for mental and emotional effects, many of the participants reported feeling calmer and experiencing increased feelings of self-worth.
Positive social interactions with others can also build physical health, according to a study published in Psychological Science. Researchers call the relationship of positive emotions, positive social connections, and their influences on physical health "a self-sustaining upward-spiral dynamic." Kindness toward others is a focal point of this dynamic, which makes it a strong indicator of physical health improvement.
Another study, from the University of British Columbia, assigned people with high levels of anxiety to perform acts of kindness several times a week for four weeks, as reported by The Huffington Post. Researchers found that these acts of kindness led to a significant increase in participants' moods, an increase in relationship satisfaction, and a decrease in social avoidance for socially anxious participants.
Kindness in the Doctor's Office
According to a scientific literature review from Dignity Health and Stanford University's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, kindness can have a significant effect on patients. For example, the review explains that if your doctor is a good communicator, you are more than twice as likely to listen to her diagnosis and treatment suggestions. And thanks to compassionate care, patients were more likely to share important information with their doctors, which then makes a diagnosis more accurate.
This review reveals that the more compassionate care that patients receive from their doctors and hospital staff, the lower their diastolic blood pressure will be during periods of stress. These are just a few of the positive health outcomes that arise from compassionate care delivered to a patient during doctor's visits, hospital and emergency room visits, and other health care interactions. That means looking for a doctor and hospital that you know delivers compassionate care may be crucial for you and your loved ones receiving the best possible health care outcomes.
Ways to Be Kind to Others
The Huffington Post suggests five ways to spread kindness that can in turn boost your emotional, mental, and physical health:
- Make a personal connection.
- Make someone's day easier.
- Make use of your talents.
- Forgive someone.
- Meditate (show kindness toward yourself).
These are all positive actions that you can take today to reduce stress, fortify relationships with others, deepen communication, and otherwise improve your health overall.
Being kind means more than just helping provide an uplifting experience for others. So for a boost in your own health, why not try a few acts of kindness today?