Why Random Acts of Kindness Can Boost Your Well-Being
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – American author/humorist, Mark Twain.
Need an instant pick-me-up? It’s easy; try committing a random act of kindness. Why? Psychological research shows that being kind to others boosts our health and happiness; kindness breeds kindness; and – even better – witnessing altruistic acts can lead us to feel elation, peace and gratitude.
So why don’t we practice these little acts of kindness more often – especially when we know being kind to others, ourselves and animals, for example, is both reciprocal and good for us? Is it because we’re all so damn busy with the humdrum of life, we become bogged down by work/family/social commitments, so that we forget to be nice?
I was amazed by how happy I felt recently after a random act of kindness I committed quickly lead to another. It was nothing major on my part, I just simply gave a stranger 50 cents when he fell short at the petrol station. It was practicality on my behalf, also: I was waiting in line behind the man to pay for my petrol and the line of people behind me was getting bigger by the minute.
So, while the man fumbled in his pockets, scrounging for change, I simply offered him up the change he needed. A look of shocked surprise crossed his face, he mumbled his thanks before going on his way, and all was well. And, here comes the good part for me – the petrol service station attendant was so impressed, he gave me a nice, little discount on my fuel.
It was a win-win for everyone and – call me a simple lass – but it made me feel really, really good. I had a warm, happy glow afterwards – certainly something akin to elation, as the psychological studies suggest.
A Brisbane clinical psychologist, who wishes to remain anonymous, says it’s well known in social psychology that doing something kind for someone else is a good antidote for depression. What’s more, people suffering from depression are often asked by psychologists to find a way to help someone. And if they do so, it can be an effective means of alleviating their depressed mood.
But you don’t need to be suffering from depression to benefit from performing a random act of kindness; everyone benefits, she says. “Doing something positive for someone else, even something as simple as a warm and caring remark or small act of kindness, can lead to a feeling of well-being in both the helper and the recipient, even a sense of elation,” says the psychologist.
“The person offering the help or kind words will benefit with a boost to their self-esteem and the recipient is likely to feel a sense of gratitude.
“Feeling grateful or appreciative for one’s blessings is good for our emotional well-being. To encourage a sense of gratitude, positive psychology uses the gratitude letter or visit, in which a person is encouraged to visit or write to someone who has helped them in the past and tell them how much their words or deeds helped the recipient. This of course is beneficial for both parties, but especially for the one feeling grateful.”
So, why not try doing something unexpectedly kind for someone else today? And it doesn’t even have to just be limited to a loved one – feel the power of being nice to strangers and tell me it doesn’t feel really, really good!
What do you think? Have you committed a random act of kindness lately?
Images via Random Acts of Kindness, Michelle Cederberg, Bright Drops, whysimpleisbetter.wordpress.com