Why giving back and act of kindness is scientifically beneficial for our body and mind

We all have our different life paths, stresses and strains, unexpected curve balls our way, and all the ups and downs of our life journey driven by unquestioning hope, but have you ever wondered how despite of all this, your face lights up when someone is being kind to you, or how you feel uplifted when you pay gratitude to someone or be the reason of their happiness? In this fast-paced world of loneliness, illness, and trauma, there’s only one thing that can unite us all together and preserves our peace of mind, and that is kindness and the act of giving back. 

What is kindness? Psychology defines kindness as a behavioral response of compassion or an action of great virtue and wisdom that is motivated by a desire to help another person. We all can bring a positive change in this world. All it takes is one small act of kindness. Small changes can make a big difference and be beneficial for our body and mind in multiple ways. Multiple studies have explored how an act of giving back is affecting us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Giving back involves paying gratitude, sending a gift to someone, doing something for a good cause, or even smiling or praying for people around you. Simply put, kindness is fundamental to human existence. (1)

Science of kindness and giving back: How it affects your brain?

Numerous studies have shown that being kind to others is not only good for your mental health but also your physical and emotional wellbeing. An act of kindness boosts the serotonin in the body, making one feel enthusiastic and uplifted. Serotonin is a body’s feel-good hormone, and when a person is kind towards others, it releases in the body and acts as an antidepressant, hence making you happy. Acts of kindness increases the amount of the love hormone or the bonding hormone, known as oxytocin, which aids in improving self-esteem and overall heart health. The oxytocin makes a person give more, and feel more happy and connected. (2)

When you give to another person, our body responds to it amazingly. The act of giving benefits the giver more than the recipients. Our brains’ reward center activates up as soon as we cultivate good deeds of kindness and giving back. Being kind to someone and paying them gratitude lights up our brain, it alleviates stress by reducing cortisol and creates a harmony between our heart and brain. Smallest acts of kindness benefit humans in everyday life by producing ripple benefits and improving overall well being. Many researches have also proved that kindness boosts neurotransmitters in the brain known as endorphins, which interact with opiate receptors and reduces pain. Isn’t it amazing how just one simple act of kindness can make you want to be more generous and have an enormously positive effect on your brain? (3)

Scientifically proven benefits of kindness and act of giving

Kindness and simple acts of giving are deeds of great virtue, which makes our life worth living, and they not only benefit the recipient but the giver enormously. It has countless health benefits, but sincerity and authenticity are the key. Below are the health benefits of kindness and the act of giving back that are backed up by science.  (4)

  1. Kindness increases energy.

Many studies have proven how kindness can incorporate positivity and increases one’s energy levels. It promotes an increased feeling of self-worth and makes a person want to be more generous and kind. 

  1. Lowers stress and depression.

In today’s world, we are surrounded by difficulties, and so much happens in our daily life that makes us stressed, depressed, and anxious. On the other hand, kindness acts as a powerful stress reliever. Kindness alleviates stress by reducing the stress hormone cortisol. Giving back releases built-up tension, instills a feeling of acceptance and gives us reasons to be happy for. 

  1. It reduces pain.

Studies have shown that kindness and the act of giving increases the release of neurotransmitters in the brain, known as endorphins. Endorphins are also known as painkilling hormones as they interact with opiate receptors and reduce pain. 

  1. Act of giving back fills us with peace and thankfulness. 

An act of giving back or paying gratitude, whether small or large, is always of great importance. These are the actions of great virtue and always stay up in our memories, filling our hearts with peace and happiness. Act of giving makes you realize the importance of the smallest of things and deeds, instilling a feeling of thankfulness within. 

  1. Kindness improves our immune system. 

Numerous studies have shown that cultivating kindness improves immune system functions by increasing the production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. Kindness also allows the immune system to work more optimally by reducing the stress hormone and by reducing inflammation. 

  1. Improves society. 

Kindness and the act of giving back cultivates the idea of paying it forward. The beneficiary of a good deed is most likely to repay the kindness to others with a positive intention, and this is how it keeps ongoing. It brings a renewed faith in human nature and increases our bond with our society. Kindness connects us and makes us more human. (5)

How to cultivate kindness and giving back in our daily lives?

Kindness is that one thing which is free, yet the world is in dire need of it. So, choose to be kind, and here are some random acts of kindness anyone can do :

  1. Start small. Open the door for a person coming behind you, or just smile big at a random stranger. 
  2. Get your leftovers or extra food to someone in need.
  3. Encourage someone who seems upset and confused.
  4. Greet everyone you meet, whether it be your office security guard, your house help, your boss or anyone you meet with a smile. 
  5. Ask someone how they are doing and lend an ear to them sincerely. 
  6. Pay gratitude. Send a thankyou note to someone. 
  7. Volunteer. 
  8. Pick up trash in your surroundings.
  9. Donate.
  10. Offer family and friends a helping hand. 
  11. Spend time with your parents and grandparents. Pay them back by being kind to them. 
  12.  Compliment people and let them know they are doing good. 
  13. Help someone who once helped you. 
  14. Play your role in saving the planet.
  15. Make someone laugh. 

These gestures of kindness and giving back take a mere seconds of your time but can be overwhelming for the one receiving them. Indeed, with kindness comes hope, and with hope we can conquer every obstacle, every hardship of our lives, and can make this world a happy place to live. 

REFERENCES: 

Isen AM, Levin PF. Effect of feeling good on helping: cookies and kindness. Journal of personality and social psychology. 1972 Mar;21(3):384.
  1. Mascaro JS, Darcher A, Negi LT, Raison CL. The neural mediators of kindness-based meditation: a theoretical model. Frontiers in psychology. 2015 Feb 12;6:109.
  1. McDonald A. Emotional intelligence. Early Years Educator. 2016 Aug 2;18(4):29-31.
  1. Long NJ. The Therapeutic Power of Kindness. Reclaiming Children and Youth: Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Problems. 1997;5(4):242-46.
  1. Pressman SD, Kraft TL, Cross MP. It’s good to do good and receive good: The impact of a ‘pay it forward’style kindness intervention on giver and receiver well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology. 2015 Jul 4;10(4):293-302.