The impact of kindness on your mental health
Self-care is a popular topic at the moment, and rightly so. Taking time out to dedicate to preserving, maintaining or improving our mental health and wellbeing is always time well spent. Whether exercise, healthy food or time on your own is your go-to self-care activity, you may be missing another good way to boost your mood and wellbeing… practising kindness to others. Sounds simple? Here’s why it’s such a valuable activity.
Kindness and gratitude go hand in hand
One aspect that links a person’s act of kindness with an increase in their happiness is that kindness itself can foster gratitude, empathy and a strengthened sense of compassion. These are all important when we consider the crucial role that they play in allowing us to form connections with other people. The stronger our feelings of connectedness, the greater the will we have to survive and thrive – this is particularly so for individuals suffering from mental illnesses such as depression.
A life without gratitude, or a life lived with disregard to others, can keep us on the sidelines, feeling separate and disconnected. This is why simple acts of kindness, no matter how big or small, are key to enhancing our mental health and helping us feel as though we belong.
There’s science to back this up: practising kindness unto others actually prompts a release of neurochemicals – so-called the ‘helper’s high’ – which reward us for our good deed(s). An activity that stimulates a release of dopamine, serotonin or oxytocin is going to be a mood booster. Therefore, despite our brains being so complex by nature, on a purely chemical level, there is an undeniable connection between practising kindness and an improved mental wellbeing.
How can you incorporate acts of kindness into your life? The good news is, it’s actually pretty simple! It’s true that small things really can create big change; this could be as simple as letting someone out of a junction while stuck in traffic or helping someone reach a product on the top shelf in the supermarket. Simple though it sounds, doing good makes you feel good. And it truly benefits everyone involved.
What’s more, in many ways, kindness is contagious. The more we practice it, the more we encourage those around us to do the same. Think of it this way, if someone lets you out in a traffic jam, chances are you’ll feel far more inclined to do the same to someone else afterwards. We don’t, and won’t, always see the chain reaction that one small act of kindness can create, but we can certainly find comfort in knowing that we can have a positive impact – one that will often turn into something far greater down the line.