Health benefits of a random act of kindness

Health benefits of a random act of kindness

Editor’s note: Sign up for CNN’s Stress, But Less newsletter. Our six-part mindfulness guide will inform and inspire you to reduce stress while learning how to use it.


Spreading kindness not only helps others feel better—it can also increase the giver’s health and happiness, according to research. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Putting the well-being of others ahead of our own without expecting anything in return—or what’s termed altruistic—stimulates the brain’s reward centers, Studies have shown. These feel-good chemicals flood our system, creating a sort of “helper frenzy.” For example, volunteering has been shown to minimize stress and improve depression.

That’s not all: the same activity can also reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and even help us live longer. One reason, experts say, is that friendliness contributes to our sense of community and belonging. And that, as studies have shown, contributes significantly to a healthy, longer life.

Donating to others or “prosocial spending” has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve heart health. In one study, a group of people with high blood pressure were asked to spend $40 on themselves, while another group of people with high blood pressure were asked to spend the money on others.

They found that those who spent money on others had lower blood pressure at the end of the six-week study. In fact, the benefits have been as great as those of healthy eating and exercise.

Giving seems to ease our pain. A recent study found that people who said they would donate money to help orphans were less sensitive to being electrocuted than those who said they would not. Also, the more helpful people thought their donation would be, the less pain they felt.

How could that happen? The study found that regions of the brain that respond to painful stimulation appear to be immediately deactivated by the experience of giving.

In the UK, researchers found that being kind can increase happiness in just three days. The study divided people into three groups: the first group had to do an act of kindness every day; the second group tried a new activity; and the third group did nothing. The groups that were friendly and doing new things experienced a significant increase in happiness.

Spreading kindness doesn't have to be complicated.

You will experience even greater joy if you are creative with your kind acts. Happiness researchers Sonja Lyubomirsky and Kennon Sheldon found that people who performed a variety of acts of kindness throughout the week showed greater increases in happiness than those who performed the same activity over and over again.

And here’s the good news: it appears that acts of kindness can be anonymous or visible, spontaneous or planned, and can be as simple as complimenting someone or opening a door for someone.

OK, you’re convinced and immediately want to become a kinder and more helpful person. There are literally hundreds of ideas out there, but here are a few to get you started:

  • While driving, make room for the car that wants to enter your lane.
  • Give a sincere compliment to a family member, friend or co-worker.
  • Do the same for your boss – he probably never gets compliments!
  • Let go of your grudges and tell that person you forgive them (unless saying it makes it worse).
  • Be there for a friend who is having a hard time. Don’t try to fix it; just listen.
  • Leave your postman a thank you note.
  • Tip your delivery driver too much.

That’s more than fair. Many people struggle economically and are often overwhelmed with balancing the needs of family, work and community. Think about being kind to yourself (in whatever way that means to you) and to others. We all need a break.

want more ideas The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, which promotes kindness throughout the year, has lists of kindness ideas organized by work, community, environment, animals, strangers, children, seniors, and more.

“You make the world a better place,” says the foundation. But remember – every kindness you give to others is also a gift to yourself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *