Doing kind things for others benefit both the giver of the kind gesture and the receiver of the kindness. These acts of kindness, or altruistic acts, increase “feel good” hormones. Altruism involves engaging in selfless acts for the joy of it. An example is giving a jacket and shoes to an unsheltered person, giving up a seat to someone else or taking a neighbor to the doctor in times of need. All these behaviors are acts of kindness and are based on a personal value that arises from genuine concern for other people’s well-being.
No matter how big or small the effort, acts of kindness have many benefits. For one, when people engage in altruistic behavior, they say it feels good. The same feeling comes from expressing gratitude and compassion for others. And, for good reason. Altruism is the selfless act of helping others without expecting anything in return. We call this in yoga being unattached to the outcome. “It is often considered one of the defining characteristics of what it means to be human,” says Dr. Jessica Myszak, a psychologist in Glenview, Illinois.
Benefits of Doing Random Acts of Kindness
Like the Golden Rule or the concept of karma that many cultures follow, both are types of prosocial behavior. “Altruism often arises from a personal sense of compassion or duty, and it can be a powerful force for good in the world,” says Myszak. “It can take many different forms, from volunteering your time to service organizations to anonymously donating gifts or money to help those in need.”
The foundation of altruistic behavior appears to be empathy, which can be further motivated by several factors. These include positive feelings, a sense of satisfaction or happiness, or other external factors that the giver feels are important. Another reason to give kindness is to see the positive effect it has on others.
While no one sets out to be unkind to others, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the “me, me, me” world in which we live. Rather than looking at giving to others as a burden, think of it as a way to get a good dose of dopamine and oxytocin. Both neurotransmitters are released when we do something kind for someone else.
Kinds of Altruism – There are a Variety of Types
Types of altruism include the following:
Kin altruism occurs when a person unselfishly supports family members and loved ones or make personal sacrifices on their behalf.
Reciprocal altruism occurs when a person helps someone knowing that, at some point, they may return the kindness. This is like reciprocal exchange in anthropology.
Cultural group altruism:
Cultural group altruism involves supporting someone who’s part of a group with which a person is associated, including ethnic and social groups. This could be a church group or a group a synagogue organizes.
Pure altruism involves helping someone from a place of empathy knowing that the giver will see no benefit, often in high stake situations.
Selfless Acts Boost Mental and Physical Health
Acting kindly can make a person feel as good as, if not better than, being the receiver of the kind act. Emory University’s study using functional MRIs to monitor brain activity showed that the pleasure and reward centers of the brain light up when a person does something nice. Being kind also stimulates serotonin, much in the same way that prescription antidepressants can improve both anxiety and depression. So, go ahead and do something kind for another person. Your body and brain will thank you.
The hormones and neurotransmitters that respond in the body when doing something kind include:
- Oxytocin, which lowers blood pressure by dilating a person’s blood vessels. This is a kind gesture to your heart.
- Cortisol, one of the body’s stress hormones, decreases when we act with kindness. Lower levels of cortisol mean lower blood pressure. This also makes losing weight easier, as high cortisol levels make a person store and hang on to abdominal fat. Lower cortisol levels also increase a person’s overall lifespan.
- Endorphins decrease pain symptoms, and act as the body’s own natural painkillers.
- Serotonin increases when we act kindly, which contributes to increased levels of energy.
Ways to Practice Acts of Kindness
It’s not the size of the act of kindness gesture that matters, it’s the smaller, consistent, easier, and sometimes free acts of kindness that make all the difference. Think about ways to be kind to others, ranging from volunteering to smiling at a total stranger.
Another idea is to pick up a deck of Random Acts of Kindness prompt cards to engage with others. These decks offer ideas that are easy to do without costing much, if anything. These true acts of kindness that have been tried, researched, and compiled in a way that is easy to do and make both the giver and receiver feel good. Once you’ve finished with the deck, gift it to someone else as another act of kindness. The decks are $19.95 for 52 prompt cards. Get them here and see how much better you feel from acting with kindness. Whether the receiver offers a thank you, or not, your body and brain will be grateful.
About Random Acts of Kindness Decks from life Hack Decks™
Life Hack Decks™ are designed to make your life easier. As we say, Delegate to the Deck™ to outsource decision-making. The mission behind life Hack Decks™ is to make life less stressful, enjoy life more, and have fun in the process. Our Random Acts of Kindness Deck improves the giver’s quality of life by increasing the “feel good” hormones in the brain that we experience when we give to others.
Make someone smile, spread kindness like wildflowers, and improve your mental health and mood all at the same time. You will immediately see and feel the benefits of doing random acts of kindness for others. This type of feeling will make you grateful to give selflessly of your being.