You know that feeling you get when you do something nice for someone? Well, according to science, those sweet little things you do — from opening the door for a stranger to volunteering at a homeless shelter — turn out to be good for you, too!
Newly released research from global non-profit organization Kindness.org, in partnership with Oxford University, has found that being kind to others doesn’t just help the recipients, but actually boosts your overall wellbeing.
“Our studies, as well as similar studies by other labs, have investigated the effects of performing acts of kindness to other people, such as helping people, giving to people, and caring for people,” Dr. Lee Rowland, Oxford University research associate and kindlab research psychologist told Lady Freethinker. “The results show that acts of kindness have positive effects on the performer’s wellbeing and mood, improved mental health, enhanced social connections, longevity (from volunteering), and sometimes better physical health (e.g. lower blood pressure).”
In effect, as wellbeing improves, anxiety and depression decrease in those who perform acts of kindness.
Being nice is not only good for you mentally, but it has physical health benefits as well.
“There is now plenty of evidence showing that spending money on others, rather than on yourself, can increase wellbeing and improve mental health, and may even be good for the health of your heart,” said Dr. Rowland.
So, being nice to other people is good for everyone.
Why is this research so important?
According to Melissa Burmester, chief strategist and founding team member at kindness.org, kindness is the key to social change.
“All of our research continues to strongly support the hypothesis that we set out to confirm—that kindness has a substantial and measurable impact on happiness,” said Burmester in an interview with Lady Freethinker. “Kindness transcends race and difference, and the global response to our research bears that out. When we are kind, we acknowledge our shared humanity. Kindness touches everything in our lives and impacts all of the major social issues we face right now including bullying, racism, sexism and homophobia.”
And in our world, the revolution for social change, acceptance, and celebration of diversity has been a long, hard battle still yet to be won.
The research was released in conjunction with World Kindness Day on November 13. In a new campaign called “Sincerely, Kindness,” Kindness.org is on a mission to spread awareness about the science of being good to others.
To get involved in the movement, go to Kindness.org to make a pledge, create a Kindness Wall, find cute GIFs, images, and videos to share on social media, and sign up for kindlab studies.
Of course, you don’t have to go online to be nice to others.
“Acts of kindness can be very small, or very big. They can be well-thought out, or they can be spontaneous. They can be to people we love, or to people just met – even people we might never meet. That’s the beauty of kindness: it can touch every aspect of our lives. But it is so easy to miss it too. To waste opportunities to be kind, or to not even notice them,” says Dr. Rowland. “Set out to do specific acts of kindness to specific kinds of people, rather than to just affirm that you’ll be kinder. Making an explicit commitment, especially in the form of a written pledge, can also really help. To change patterns of behavior is difficult. To create a new habit takes work. Getting involved in a group – like a volunteering group – where you have a commitment to help out will really help cultivate new acts of kindness.”
So, if you want to make the world a better place, consider incorporating a daily dose of kindness into your life. The only side effect? You’ll be healthier and happier, too.