Being kind helps others feel good, but research shows it can also boost the giver’s health and happiness. Being altruistic - or putting the well-being of others before your own without expecting anything in return - stimulates the brain’s reward centers, according to research. And when all those feel good chemicals flood our system, it leads to what’s been dubbed a “helper’s high.”
Helping others by volunteering has been found to lower stress and improve depression, too. Other health benefits of spreading kindness include:
- A longer life - Volunteering can also reduce the risk for cognitive impairment and help us live longer. Experts say this is because kindness adds to our sense of community and belonging, which studies have found to be a key contributor to a healthy, longer life.
- Lower blood pressure - Donating to others has been found to reduce blood pressure and improve heart health. At the end of one six-week study, participants who spent money on others had lower blood pressure and the improvements were as much as those from healthy diet and exercise.
- Pain reduction - Giving seems to help ease our pain, too. In one recent study, people who said they would donate money to help orphans were less sensitive to an electric shock than those who didn’t want to give. And the more helpful people thought their donation would be, the less pain they felt. So how can that happen? The study explains that parts of the brain that react to painful stimulation seem to be instantly deactivated by the experience of giving.
- More happiness - In another study, researchers found that being kind can boost happiness in as little as three days. And if you’re creative with your kindness, you’ll feel even more joy. Happiness researchers Sonja Lyubomirsky and Kennon Sheldon have found that folks who do a variety of acts of kindness during the week have bigger increases in happiness than those who do the same kind thing over and over. And the best part? The act of kindness can be virtually anything, even as simple as paying someone a compliment or opening a door for a stranger.