One kind thing, every single day

Being thoughtful feels good and it helps your body and your brain
What improves health, can cost nothing, and has no ill effects? Kindness! Every single act of kindness we extend to others and ourselves can lead to health benefits that help us live longer, healthier lives. According to Psychology Today, researchers have found a direct connection between a lifestyle of kindness and improved well-being.

Physical benefits of being considerate range from lower cortisol (stress hormones) to improved immune responses. Practicing kindness regularly can alleviate pain and lower blood pressure. It also protects against heart disease twice as well as aspirin.

The Association for Psychological Science reports that when people are kind, “They’re less depressed, less lonely and happier. They have better cardiovascular health and live longer. They may be physically stronger. They’re more popular.”

Christine Carter is a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. In Psychology Today, she writes that those over age 55 who volunteer have a 44 percent lower likelihood of dying early. Even factoring in things like exercise and smoking, volunteering can add years to your life.

Is kindness teachable? Can it be practiced? In a podcast for Ohio’s University Hospital, psychiatrist Marcie Hall says people can learn kindness. “It’s not a virtue or a quality that you’re born with. Although people are born to be kind, we’re also born with the capacity to be unkind,” she says. “It’s important that you recognize it as being more of a practice, more of a habit, and less of a personal quality.”

Thoughtfulness and kindness seem to come naturally to some —specifically, people who are empathetic. Yet, only about half of our tendencies toward kindness are inborn, the rest is either learned from our environment or reinforced by our own choices, says Jamil Zaki, a neuroscientist and professor at Stanford University. “Kindness is a skill we can strengthen, much as we would build a muscle.”

“When we’re suggesting people be kind, it’s really more to enhance your life and the lives of those around you,” says Hall. She notes that there are countless ways to be thoughtful. “It’s almost impossible to make a concise list. It’s essentially being helpful, being courteous [and] being kind.”

So how does kindness impact us physically? When we practice kindness, we see increased levels of oxytocin. That’s the hormone and brain chemical that helps us feel an increased sense of connectedness and trust.

When our brain makes oxytocin, it can give us immediate benefits and higher levels of it may reap advantages over time. It can cause our blood vessels to dilate, fortify our immune system, and increase our energy levels. And while we are reaping these physical boosts, we can experience an increase in self-esteem. “So, you’re living longer and feeling better about yourself,” says Hall.

There are skeptics, people who don’t want to believe kindness matters, and others who feel that it must be an oversimplification, Hall says. They think, “… you must not know how hard life really is.”

But stop and think about it. Kindness and social activities create a great pathway for truly understanding one another, including our hardships. Hall says that some of the kindest people in our lives are people who have been through the most challenging times.

When you’re practicing kindness to others, remember to extend those same intentions to yourself. Be kind to yourself because you are worth it. You’ll likely find the benefits of adding one small act of kindness to your day to be worth it.

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” – Amelia Earhart

3 kindness ideas for your day

Opportunities to share acts of kindness are literally all around you. Whenever and wherever the mood strikes to spread a little joy, you’ll find people buoyed by your good intentions. Here are a few ideas from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

Text someone good morning. It’s wonderful to know someone is thinking about you. What’s better than starting someone’s day with a warm greeting or a spontaneous word of support and encouragement.

Create your own bookmarks and donate them to a library. A simple reminder to be kind is sometimes all it takes to incite a kind act. Be creative! Cut cardstock into strips and decorate with drawings, designs, or your favorite quote.

Ask a senior about their past. Experience brings wisdom. Older people often have some of the best anecdotes and give great advice – ask someone to share their story. Whether it’s a grandparent or someone you just met, there is a lot to learn from previous generations.

Source: Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

10 acts of kindness you can do from home

Infusing your day with acts of kindness not only helps others, it can provide a healthy distraction from your own challenges and boost your mood. Here are 10 suggestions for simple acts of kindness you can do from home.

  1. Write to a friend. Getting a thoughtful note in the mail is sure to put a smile on their face. If you choose to go the virtual route, you can always text or email someone who could use some cheering up.
  2. Check in on a family member. Call a relative with whom you’ve fallen out of touch. Start the conversation with a memory that means something to you both.
  3. Plant a tree. Do something kind for the planet by planting a tree or a garden in your backyard.
  4. Give someone a compliment. Whether it’s in person to someone you live with, or an online comment on social media or your favorite blog, a compliment can go a long way.
  5. Tip your delivery person extra. If you have food delivered, add a couple extra dollars to what you would normally tip.
  6. Share your favorite recipe with a friend. Even if we can’t get together to break bread, it doesn’t mean we can’t share a part of our kitchen inspiration.
  7. Do a chore that is normally done by your spouse, child, or roommate. Everyone could use a little break, and if you’re lucky maybe they’ll return the favor some time.
  8. Give your closet a thorough clean-out. Next time you declutter, donate your unwanted clothes to charity or a friend who is in need.
  9. Leave positive sticky notes around the house. Write down words of encouragement and post them around the house for you or your significant other to find.
  10. Send virtual letters to military personnel or hospital patients. Look online for ways to send virtual mail to those overseas or in hospitals to brighten their day.

Source: Ochsner Health

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