Kindness Changes Your Brain for the Better
You've probably noticed that you feel good when you are kind to others, but did you know that regular acts of kindness change your brain over time? There is a lot of fascinating research out there on the health benefits of kindness. Let's explore how kindness changes the brain, so we can all be kinder, healthier, and happier.
Generosity and Kindness Change Your Brain for the Better
According to Dartmouth College,1 kindness and generosity aid in the production of oxytocin and serotonin. Oxytocin is often referred to as the love or bonding hormone because it helps us connect with others, lowers blood pressure, and improves self-esteem. Serotonin is found in most antidepressant medications and can aid in the healing of wounds in addition to helping you feel more calm and happy.
I love the feeling I get when I do something unexpected and special for someone else. The experience of being appreciated brings me happiness and a sense of being valued. Some call this the helper's high. People who volunteer regularly can attest to this. I noticed it myself when volunteering for the Special Olympics and at a food kitchen. The work at the kitchen was especially labor intensive, but working hard felt great when I knew it was for a good cause.
Kindness Supports Physical and Mental Health
Dartmouth College identified even more benefits of kindness. Witnessing an act of kindness makes you more likely to engage in kindness yourself. I remember when someone paid for my coffee in a drive-thru one morning, so I offered to pay for the person behind me. The barista said about 20 cars had been paying it forward since the first act of kindness that morning. In this way, it seems kindness is contagious.
Dartmouth offered several other benefits. Kindness can:
- Increase energy and feelings of self-worth
- Protect against heart disease
- Lengthen lifespan by improving physical health
- Reduce pain, stress, anxiety, and depression
- Make you happier and more optimistic
All this talk of kindness got me thinking about self-kindness. In my mental health journey, self-kindness was a total game-changer. If you would like to learn more about the power of being kind to yourself, check out my video below.
Remember: Kindness changes your brain for the better.
- Dartmouth College, "Kindness Health Facts." Accessed May 15, 2019.
Green, H. (2019, May 22). Kindness Changes Your Brain for the Better, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingablissfullife/2019/5/kindness-changes-your-brain-for-the-better
Author: Heidi Green, Psy.D.
Jesus while on earth taught kindness all the time. Being kind by reaching out to others not for any other reason but to help, leaves us feeling good about ourselves. It’s a side effect.... not the ultimate goal!
Thanks for your comment, Detta. I'm glad to hear you are already active in a practice of kindness!