Kindness? What does kindness have to do with wellness? Lots more than we know!
It’s often been said that it’s better to give than to receive, but did you know that this Bible truth is actually backed by research? While many of us feel too stressed and busy to worry about helping others tell ourselves that we’ll be more involved with “good deeds” when we have more spar’ time, energy and money, altruism is its own reward, and can actually help you relieve stress. Altruistic acts improve your quality of life in several ways, and are absolutely worth the effort.
Here are some ways that helping others helps you:
Altruism and Psychological Wellbeing: Studies show that altruism is good for your emotional well-being, and can measurably enhance your peace of mind. For example, one study found that dialysis patients, transplant patients and family members who became support volunteers for other patients experienced increased personal growth and emotional well-being. Another study on patients with multiple sclerosis showed that those who offered other MS patients peer support actually experienced greater benefits than their supported peers, including more pronounced improvement on confidence, self-awareness, self-esteem, depression and daily functioning. Those who offered support generally found that their lives were dramatically changed for the better.
Altruism and Increased Social Support: What goes around generally does come around. More specifically, when people make altruistic personal sacrifices, they end up reaping what they sow in the form of favors from others. These individuals earn the reputation as altruistic people and end up receiving favors from others who they may not have even directly helped. The favors and social support you ‘earn’ through altruism, combined with the good feelings you get from helping others (see above), more than make up for sacrifices made in the name of altruism.
Keeping Things In Perspective: Your expectations of life and the people you compare yourself to can make a real difference in your level of life satisfaction. For example, your home may seem shabby to you if you’re comparing it to the living rooms you see in the pages of decorating magazines, or it may seem palatial and opulent compared to the huts built in impoverished countries. Helping others in need, especially those who are less fortunate than you, can provide you with a sense of perspective on how fortunate you are to have what you do in life — be it health, money, or a safe place to sleep, and help you focus less on the things you feel you lack. Helping others with their problems can also help you gain a more positive perspective on the things in life that cause you stress.
Building a Better Community: The positive effects of what we do go beyond just you and the person you are doing it for; it often influences your whole community. Remember the movie Pay It Forward? Amazing how far one boy’s good deeds affected so many! When you do nice things for others, you often enable them to do nice things for others, and the phenomenon grows.
Altruism and Stress Relief: When you feel stressed and overwhelmed, you may feel like you’re least able to give. However, acts of altruism can be a great form of stress relief. Studies have shown that the act of giving activates the area of the brain associated with positive feelings, lifting your spirits, and making you feel better the more you give. And given that altruism can lead to lasting emotional well-being, a more positive perspective, a positive effect on others, and better social standing, altruism certainly does the job as a healthy means for relieving stress and increasing life satisfaction.
So yes, being kind makes you a healthier person! It might not make you drop pounds or build muscle or cardiovascular endurance,
but your sense of accomplishment and the stress relief you will experience go a long way towards a healthier person.