Have you been the recipient of some surprise kindness this week? Maybe you owe it to the fact that it’s Random Acts of Kindness Week. What a very nice week. In thinking about kindness and why it feels so good, I visited the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website and discovered that numerous scientific studies show that acts of kindness result in significant health benefits, both physical and mental. In the book The Healing Power of Doing Good: The Health and Spiritual Benefits of Helping Others, Allan Luks talks about these benefits of helping other.
• A rush of euphoria, followed by a longer period of calm, after performing a kind act is often referred to as a “helper’s high,” involving physical sensations and the release of the body’s natural painkillers, the endorphins. This initial rush is then followed by a longer-lasting period of improved emotional well-being.
• Stress-related health problems improve after performing kind acts. Helping reverses feelings of depression, supplies social contact, and decreases feelings of hostility and isolation that can cause stress, overeating, ulcers, etc. A drop in stress may, for some people, decrease the constriction within the lungs that leads to asthma attacks.
• Helping can enhance our feelings of joyfulness, emotional resilience, and vigor, and can reduce the unhealthy sense of isolation.
• A decrease in both the intensity and the awareness of physical pain can occur.
• The incidence of attitudes, such as chronic hostility, that negatively arouse and damage the body is reduced.
• The health benefits and sense of well-being return for hours or even days whenever the helping act is remembered.
• An increased sense of self-worth, greater happiness, and optimism, as well as a decrease in feelings of helplessness and depression, is achieved.
• Once we establish an “affiliative connection” with someone–a relationship of friendship, love, or some sort of positive bonding–we feel emotions that can strengthen the immune system.
• The practice of caring for strangers translates to immense immune and healing benefits.
• Adopting an altruistic lifestyle is a critical component of mental health.
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