Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day, so it’s the perfect time to talk about how kindness, compassion, and altruism can positively affect your health.
Research has shown that simple acts of kindness like holding open a door for someone, buying lunch for a friend, and even letting other cars merge onto the highway can have significant impacts on our overall health and well-being. Being courteous and generous are proven to foster positive moods, increase relationship satisfaction, decrease anxiety and depression, and lower our blood pressure. In other words, having a heart protects our hearts.
These cardio-protective effects occur because acts of kindness release a hormone in our body called oxytocin (otherwise known as the cuddle hormone, which is possibly the greatest nickname for a hormone ever), which dilates blood vessels and therefore reduces blood pressure. (This hormone, released during labor, facilitates childbirth and maternal bonding, too.) Oxytocin appears to have a number of other health benefits, including the ability to reduce glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and levels of cortisol (otherwise known as the stress hormone, which is a less fun nickname).
In addition to the health benefits we can receive, there really isn’t anything better than knowing that we have made someone’s day a bit easier—whether we helped in a small way or just made someone smile. Winston Churchill said it best: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
What random act of kindness can you perform today? Here are a few ideas:
- Leave a bouquet of flowers for a patient at your local hospital.
- Carry your neighbor’s groceries.
- Pay for the person behind you in line at the coffee shop or the toll booth.
- Donate time or money to a charity.
- Hug a loved one for no particular reason.
- Write a letter of appreciation.
Now go out there and commit a random act of kindness!