What Does Kindness Do for Our Overall Wellness?
In Texas, we take pride in our charming Southern hospitality! Simple sayings such as, “yes ma’am” or “no thank you, sir”, go a long way when showing respect to others. These sayings come in handy particularly during the month of November, a month dedicated to showing feelings of gratitude and appreciation for others. Unfortunately, we often forget to give proper thanks to ourselves. By neglecting to put forth kindness upon ourselves, we fail to realize what a positive affirmation can do for our self-esteem. Acts of kindness and self-compassion have been shown to help improve our self-esteem (Neff, 2009). Similar to the taste of a warm pumpkin spice latte on a brisk morning, kindness creates an atmosphere of good feelings and helps you focus on positive things rather than negative. Kindness can also be a way of connecting with others and making a difference in other people’s lives. With the recent celebration of World Kindness Day and the quickly approaching Thanksgiving Day, we want to embrace the idea of being kind to others and ourselves.
You may be wondering why being kind to yourself or others can be so significant to your mental wellness. To begin with, our brains love kindness and find it pleasurable! Like the feeling of winning money or comforting a loved one, our neurological reward systems activate when we receive and do kind acts of compassion (Davidson, Lutz, & Ricard 2014). The levels of the brain’s natural happiness chemicals, known as endogenous opioids, increase and cause dopamine levels to elevate giving us a natural high or what some call a “helper’s high” (Hamilton, 2011). Our chemical release is the reason why kind acts of compassion allow us to feel happier. In addition to improvements in emotional wellness, one study found that being kind to others can reduce our level of stress and decrease our chances of struggling with depression (Raposa, Laws, & Ansell, 2015). Similarly, being unkind to ourselves is linked to depression and lower psychological well-being (Neff, 2009). As mentioned above, the boost in dopamine levels in the brain that give us a helper’s high promote happiness and a rewarding pleasure (Adelson, 2005).
Kindness is also helpful for our physical well-being. It can be a route to better health and living a longer life. Kindness reduces body aches, improves our cardiovascular profile, strengthens our immune system, and boosts our energy (Luks, 1988; Post, 2008). Due to the emotional warmth that occurs after an act of kindness, oxytocin is produced in the body that has a positive effect on our cardiovascular system. Through small acts of kindness our body releases nitric oxide that helps lower blood pressure and levels of inflammation (Hamilton, 2011).
It may be easy to be kind to others, but it is harder to be kind to ourselves. Knowing the many benefits of kindness, TOPPS has created five #TOPPSTips on how we can show kindness to ourselves.
Take a moment to appreciate yourself! Whether it be in the morning when you wake up or the night before going to bed, take a few minutes to think about positive things that make you who you are! Pay attention to your strengths, NOT your weaknesses.
Set a positive quote on your cell phone as a daily reminder! Similar to setting reminders for appointments, set a positive tip or quote each day that will put a smile on your face. It can be your favorite inspirational quote, or a tip that simply says “SMILE”.
Throw away your stress and negativity! Unwind in a warm bubble bath or make a special trip to the gym to release some of your stress. This helps to remove tension from your mind and body and make room for positive thought.
Have a good laugh break! Pull up a funny clip on your cell phone or a sitcom on your computer that makes you laugh. Laughter can help recharge your energy and release tensions. Find some time in your day to “LOL”!
Take care of your health! Our bodies respond to our thoughts and emotions. Stress can lead to our immune system breaking down. As we stated in our past blog a proper diet, exercise, and sleep are vital for maintaining our mental wellness. The better we feel, the more likely we are to treat ourselves well.
These tips are a starting point for being more kind to yourself on a daily basis. We know that it can be hard to find the time to incorporate these tips into your daily routine, but finding the easiest way that works for you is key! Think of ways that will help you remember to show kindness. This will help boost your self-esteem, build your self-worth, and develop a balanced mind, balance body. Take the #TOPPSTipChallenge and share your act of kindness in the comments below.
Adelson, R. (2005). Dopamine and Desire. American Psychological Association, 36(3), 18. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar05/dopamine.aspx
Davidson, R. J., Lutz, A., & Ricard, M. (2014). Mind of the meditator. Scientific American, 39, 45. Retrieved from https://www.law.upenn.edu/live/files/3918-mind-of-the-meditatorpdf
Hamilton, D. R. (2011, May 30). The 5 Side Effects of Kindness. Retrieved from http://drdavidhamilton.com/the-5-side-effects-of-kindness/
Luks, A. (1988, October). "Helper's high: Volunteering makes people feel good, physically and emotionally." Psychology Today, 22(10), 34-42.
Neff, K. D. (2009). The Role of Self-Compassion in Development: A Healthier Way to Relate to Oneself. Human Development, 52(4), 211-214.
Post, S. G., (2008, September 3). Updating the Helping Therapy Principle [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-joy-giving/200809/updating the-helper-therapy-principle
Raposa, E. B., Laws, H. B., & Ansell, E. B. (2015). Prosocial Behavior Mitigates the Negative Effects of Stress in Everyday Life. Sage Journals, 4(4), 691-698.