The Impact of Kindness on Mental and Physical Health
Small acts of kindness uplift our wellbeing and create a positive, caring world.
Kindness, often regarded as a simple and altruistic act, has a profound impact on our wellbeing. It extends far beyond politeness and courtesy, affecting not only our mental health but also our physical health.
In both day-to-day life and the busy demands of the world of work, where the pursuit of success can often take centre stage, it’s easy to accidentally overlook the simple (yet powerful!) act of kindness. However, kindness is a valuable, mindful tool for maintaining mental and physical health - especially in times of stress.
With World Kindness Day 2023 fast approaching, this blog delves deeper into the impact of kindness on our holistic health - mentally and physically - and how to actively integrate practices of kindness into our everyday lives.
Kindness, Mindfulness, and Mental Health
Kindness is a form of mindfulness, which has a huge impact on uplifting our mood and boosting our mental health.
How to define kindness? Kindness is the practice of showing compassion, empathy, and understanding to others, as well as to ourselves. It's the act of extending a helping hand or offering a friendly smile to brighten someone's day.
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a form of mental health and wellbeing training. It is the practice of being fully present in the moment, acknowledging your thoughts and feelings without judgment. It's about paying attention to the present with an open heart and mind.
Both mindfulness and kindness allow us to: • Practice empathy; • Reduce judgement and reactivity; • Be grounded and present; • Connect more deeply with others.
Importantly, both kindness and mindfulness are deeply connected to our mental health. The Mental Health Foundation finds that 63% of UK adults agree that both giving and receiving acts of kindness have a positive impact on their mental health.
Three ways Mindful Kindness impacts our Wellbeing:
1. Boosting Mental Health
When we engage in acts of kindness, our brain releases hormones, such as endorphins, which are associated with feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
These hormones not only uplift our mood but also reduce stress and anxiety, providing a significant mental health boost.
2. Enhancing Emotional Resilience
When we practice kindness, we build a sense of empathy, gratitude, and emotional well-being. These qualities, in turn, help us better cope with stress and adversity, making us emotionally stronger.
Additionally, practising kindness can lead to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. The act of kindness fosters a sense of connection and belonging, which is essential for maintaining good mental health in a world often marked by stress and isolation.
By consistently engaging in acts of kindness, we create a more positive outlook on life. This optimism is vital for building emotional resilience and developing a robust mental health foundation.
3. Fostering Positive Relationships
Being kind is a two-way street. Not only does it benefit the recipient, but it also enhances the giver's emotional resilience.
Kindness is the glue that binds individuals and communities. When we are kind to others, we build stronger, more meaningful relationships. These relationships provide us with a support system during tough times and contribute to our overall mental health and happiness.
The sense of trust and bonding that kindness generates is invaluable. It promotes a sense of belonging and shared values, which are essential for maintaining good mental health.
The Physical Benefits of Kindness
The mental benefits of kindness go hand-in-hand with the physical benefits too.
Acts of kindness go beyond fostering positive emotions - they have a tangible impact on our physical wellbeing. In fact, according to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease.
Simple acts of compassion, from a friendly smile to lending a helping hand, can lead to reduced stress, improved heart health, and a strengthened immune system:
1. Reduce Stress
Also linked with mental health, acts of kindness trigger the release of oxytocin (known as the ‘cardioprotective hormone’), which helps reduce stress. Lower stress levels are associated with a reduced risk of various health issues, including cardiovascular problems.
2. Lower Blood Pressure
There’s more than one way to have a kind heart! A kind and caring disposition can lead to lower blood pressure. Individuals who engage in regular acts of kindness tend to have healthier blood pressure levels. This has a positive impact on heart health and reduces the risk of heart disease.
3. Enhanced Immune System
Kindness can bolster our immune system. The stress-reducing effects of kindness can strengthen our body's defences against illness. Practising kindness regularly, with all its physical health benefits and positive hormone production, can lead to a robust immune system, making us less susceptible to infections.
20 Ideas for Little Acts of Kindness
There are lots of little ways to be kind - and lots of places to do it! A quick act in the queue for coffee, on your commute, around the office, or at home. They can be silent, spoken, or somewhere in between.
Now that we know the mental and physical benefits of kindness, here are 20 ideas to put the mindfulness technique into action:
• Share a smile with a friend or co-worker;
• Hold the door open;
• Compliment someone;
• Donate to a cause or local fundraiser;
• Send a thoughtful text to a friend or family member;
• Help a colleague;
• Listen to someone actively without giving advice;
• Leave positive notes in public spaces, at home, or around the office;
• Pick up rubbish/litter;
• Bake or cook for others;
• Offer your seat in public;
• Gift someone their favourite snack;
• Volunteer in your community;
• Shop small and support a local business;
• Share your umbrella when it rains;
• Offer to carry someone’s heavy bags;
• Let someone go in front of you in the queue;
• Write a positive review;
• Bring treats into the office to share;
• Donate items to a charity shop;
Small Acts - Big Impacts
Kindness is not about the scale of the gesture but the sincerity behind it. These small acts of kindness can make a significant difference in someone's day, boost our mental and physical health, and contribute to creating a more compassionate and caring world.
“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” - Clare Pooley
Whether it’s at work or at home - a little bit of kindness goes a long way for everyone’s overall wellbeing.
At Mind It, we guide mindfulness workplace training for teams in a corporate setting. For more information on what we do, get in touch via email@example.com.