Bhave Institute of Mental Health

Bhave Institute of Mental Health

Benefits of kindness

All of us have been the recipients of someone’s kindness at some point in our life. Isn’t it lovely when someone offers to help us out with some technical glitch we can’t handle or when someone offers to drop us if we don’t have a vehicle. It certainly brings a smile to our face or eases things out. But did you know that performing acts of kindness has big benefits for the giver also. We see several videos or hear stories of the “ripple effect” kindness has. Let’s take a look at benefits of kindness from a psychological perspective.

The Cambridge dictionary defines kindness as the quality of being generous, helpful and caring about other people. In psychological terms, kindness is seen as a prosocial behaviour (action intended to help others). Man is a social animal, and kindness is fundamental to human existence. If we see someone falling or slipping, we get an urge to reach out or hold on to them. It is the reason why in cases of natural calamities several people come out as volunteers or donate to help the victims. Altruism can be in built to an extent and ensures that members of a tight knit group have support when needed. We know for a fact that the recipients benefit from such acts, but it is being widely researched how the benefactors also enjoy the fruits of these acts. Let’s understand how.

  • When we do good for others, our brains reward centre is activated which leads to release of feel-good chemicals called ‘endorphins’ in our brain. These are our natural mood elevators and they bring down our baseline stress level. So, performing acts of kindness on a regular basis gives our brain regular doses of these ‘pick-me-up’ chemicals.
  • Being kind alleviates social anxiety. Evidence shows being kind to others increases the ‘positive affect’ experienced by a person and improves the quality of their social interactions.
  • Helping others takes you out of your own mind and can potentially help to build relationships with other people. Anything that helps you build bonds with other people is known as ‘affiliative behaviour’. Such a behaviour is an effective way of coping with stress and reducing its impact on emotional functioning. It also goes a long way in improving our social ties, reducing loneliness and preventing low mood.
  • Research is showing definitive evidence that being good to others brings about physical changes in our body such as reduction in inflammation and boosting our immune system. It lowers our blood pressure and has a protective effect on our heart. It reduces level of cortisol or the ‘stress hormone’ in our body.

If being good to others has so many benefits, then why aren’t we tapping into this superpower? Today’s life is so fast paced and busy, that we often end up focussing on self-interest. Compassion and benevolence take a back seat. If we all make a conscious effort to inculcate these small acts in our daily life, it would contribute greatly in making our surroundings a happier place for everybody to live in.

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