It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme is kindness.
It has been very heartening to see the number of acts of generosity and kindness during lockdown, including the incredible £32 million in donations to Captain Tom Moore, the 750,000 NHS volunteers, and well as the many stories of people helping their neighbours and supporting each other at this challenging time.
We know intuitively that that’s a good thing, and science backs it up.
Here are five science-backed benefits of kindness:
1. Reduced pain
Engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins—the brain’s natural painkiller. Lizette Borreli, Medical Daily.
2. Less stress
Perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age slower than the average population. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 1998
3. Less anxiety
A group of highly anxious individuals performed at least six acts of kindness a week. After one month, there was a significant increase in positive moods, relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance in socially anxious individuals. University of British Columbia Study
4. Higher life satisfaction
Stephen Post of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-realization and physical health is significantly improved. Mortality is delayed, depression is reduced and wellbeing and good fortune are increased. Dr. Stephen Post, Ph.D. bioethics professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
5. Lower blood pressure
Committing acts of kindness lowers blood pressure. According to Dr. David R. Hamilton, acts of kindness create emotional warmth, which releases a hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and, therefore, oxytocin is known as a “cardioprotective” hormone. It protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.
Here are three ways you can practice kindness this week:
1. Join Corona Kindness
Every weekday this week, 12-1pm, I’m running a mindfulness session based on practising kindness, you can sign up here.
2. Kindness meditation
I’ve recorded a meditation which involves wishing for yourself and others to be happy, well and free of suffering.
It can make you feel very happy and peaceful, improve your relationships and help you forgive people who you really struggle with.
It’s available on the app Insighttimer as well as on this webpage.
Random Acts of Kindness! I was recently challenged to do five kind things in a day. I gave someone a massage, sent unexpected video testimonials to people, gave to a food bank and wrote a friend a letter of appreciation.
I challenge you to do the same! It has a triple-whammy effect. You feel good, the receiver feels good, and anyone who sees or hears about it feels good!