One of the best ways to express gratitude is through acts of kindness. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It’s a day for expressing our gratitude. But we think that sentiment should be felt throughout the holiday season. It helps stress levels, your heart and blood sugar!
Expressing your gratitude through acts of kindness can boost your health and happiness. Behaving altruistically floods the brain with feel-good chemicals and minimizes stress while boosting mood. It also boosts cognitive performance and may increase lifespan.
A study of people with high blood pressure had one group spend $40 on other people, and another spend the money on themselves. Those who spent the money on others had lower blood pressure by the end of the study. The results were on par with changing to a healthier diet and exercising. Another study showed that people who gave money to charity felt less pain in response to electric shocks. And the more helpful they believed their donation was, the less pain they felt. While not everyone can afford to give large donations, you can donate time to local organizations to boost your health.
The health benefits of kindness are seen in just three days. And doing a variety of kind acts was more beneficial than sticking to one act. You can be a kinder driver and let people merge into your lane. You can let the person behind you in line at the supermarket checkout go ahead of you. You can go out of your way to compliment someone. You can help a neighbor with yard work. If you are looking for more ideas, you can check out The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.
“Small acts of kindness are an essential and often overlooked component of health,” said Dr. Kelli Harding, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia Univ. Irving Medical Center.
The impact of kindness can be felt immediately inside your brain. It feels nice to be kind. But it’s also impacting us physically.
“On an individual level, kindness buffers stress,” Dr. Harding said. “It lowers cortisol and blood pressure, reduces pain, anxiety, depression and boosts our immune system. People feel and function better, even with serious illnesses such as cancer, when they have kindness and positive social support in their lives. The more buffers for negative stress we create with kindness, the healthier we feel even with tough diseases or challenges that arise.”
Kindness may even slow aging. A study found that being kind released oxytocin that reduced the levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system. That slowed biological aging and lowered the risk of heart disease.
As we head into the holiday season, emotions tend to run high. There is a lot of joy. But there is also a lot of stress and potentially loneliness and grief for family and friends who are no longer with you or simply can’t join you this year. In the midst of all the craziness, make time for kindness. It can bring you peace, happiness and better health.