Guess what? When all those people told you to be nice as a kid, they may have been onto something. I’ve got a not-so-secret secret to your health and happiness: Being a nice person. Crazy right? They’ve been searching for this fix-all cure for ages and it’s right here in front of our noses.
I find this topic to be absolutely fascinating, so like it or not I’m going to outline for you the amazing physical and psychological benefits of just being a nice person.
Just to clarify these benefits are not just a long term result of being a good person, but can also be reaped by doing simple small, and easy acts of kindness such as:
-making an effort to be genuinely interested when you ask about someone’s day
-taking the time to check up on someone you haven’t talked to in a while
-getting your friend their favorite drink/snack when they are having a bad day
-random dollar store gift bags
-notes that say why you appreciate someone
-helping someone complete an unpleasant task (dishes, taking out the trash, yard work)
Generally, something doesn’t have to be huge to have a great impact. While huge acts of kindness are great and amazing, the small things can have equal impact.
Committing an act of kindness releases the hormone oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is proven to reduce levels of stress and anxiety (Fun fact, this is also the chemical released when building relationships, so on sidetrack relationships with other people, even small short conversations and such do actually take away some of the stress in our lives.)
While the effects of stress are fairly well known:
Being kind is not, but perhaps should be prescribed as an aid to relieve these problems. In fact, in response to stress, we are often told to do the opposite, to not worry about anyone else when we are stressed, to focus, and take care of ourselves. We are told to treat ourselves when we are having a headache and focus on self-care and binge social media and tv shows. These “solutions” often lead to us feeling worse in whatever ails us, and emotionally as well. When our focus is on ourselves our problems are more imminent in our minds. When our focus is on others, we can benefit from the satisfaction of helping them with their problems while keeping our own in a more reasonable perspective.
In addition to this, long-term health problems linked back to stress can also be reduced/eliminated by practicing kindness over long periods of time. (Making kindness a personality habit, maybe a good idea?)
2. Being kind can reduce aging.
Again, being kind releases the hormone oxytocin in our brains. Recent studies have found that this hormone plays a rather large effect in the process of aging. Oxytocin aids in memory, among other neurocognitive processes. Specifically, it enables a person to better recall social stimuli, names, people, and places as well as details about previous social situations.
This hormone also reduces stress on the heart. Prolonging the health and duration of this essential muscle reduces a myriad of health issues later in life
So a small weekly habit of picking up the trash while on a walk, or intentionally taking time out of your day to talk to someone who might be lonely not only helps other people but can lead to a longer and more alert life for you.
3. Endorphins, oh boy!
Being kind just overall makes you happier. From strengthening neural pathways for compassion, and giving yourself a natural boost of dopamine and serotonin (the happy hormones) your body is naturally hard-wired to reward you for being kind.
You ever want the key to happiness, (or at least a cheap and easy to obtain burst of it) just be nice to people.
People who suffer from depression, again, are sucked into this pattern of trying to fix themselves and make themself happy by taking time and doing things for themselves, and while time to do the things you love is important, in this context it is done to achieve a goal (making yourself happy). Research has shown when a reward is expected for doing something you love to do (something you are intrinsically motivated for) it greatly reduces the enjoyment, dopamine and serotonin, you can get from it. On the other hand, taking a few minutes out of your day to do something nice for someone else is a guaranteed way to give yourself a boost of endorphins and improve your mood and outlook.
4. We get to be proud of ourselves, yay!
When we do something nice for someone else we can go to sleep knowing that we accomplished good in the world. Being kind gives us something to pat ourselves on the back for. When a high percentage of the population struggles with self-esteem and self-image, this is a positive and productive way to help build a mental picture of ourselves as something other than the steaming heap of disaster we believe ourselves to be.
Overall, being kind makes the world better. It makes your world better for all the reasons mentioned above, it makes the person you’re being kind to feel like they matter. It raises other people’s self-esteem and image, and all in all, just makes the world a happier and healthier place.
I also would like to point out that our bodies have been designed to reward us for being good people, which I think is super cool. Like God designed us so that when we follow the example he’s given us and the principles he’s laid out for us we are rewarded in happiness and health benefits. Is that awesome or what?
Now go be kind people, and never forget to be curious.