Why Being Kind is Good For Your Health

| Pregnancy & Parenting

Go ahead and kill them with kindness; it certainly won’t kill you.

While it’s obvious that helping others benefits those receiving it, research suggests that being kind may help you live a healthier, longer life. Committing acts of kindness is meant to be selfless and unsolicited, but holding the elevator for the guy who just cut you off in the parking lot probably seems less that enticing. On the days you need an extra push to extend a helping hand, it’s okay to remember that being kind is good for everyone involved, including you.

business woman opening elevator door

When you perform an act of kindness, you increase your brain’s serotonin levels, which are responsible for lifting your mood. Serotonin is a chemical that acts as an antidepressant and is released when you do something kind, receive a nice gesture from someone else or even witness a generous act amongst others. In any of those cases, the atmosphere around you is lightened, creating a happier environment and stimulating your body's natural mood-boosters.

>> Read more: 10 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Mood

Your body also produces oxytocin, commonly known as the "love hormone," as it is released when you connect socially with others. This hormone has the power to alleviate stress, increase your trust levels and lower your blood pressure because of its relaxing effects. This creates a chain reaction with other healthy rewards as decreased stress levels lead to better active sleep and slow the aging process.

Focusing on helping others makes you a happier person with more friends and heightened confidence. Volunteering and participating in charitable causes makes you feel that your life has meaning and purpose, which causes healthy changes in your body at the cellular level says Happify, a company centered around spreading joy worldwide. This sense of self-worth breeds happiness and studies show that happy people live longer! 

volunteering copy

>> Read more: 30 Days to a Happier, Healthier You

Researcher Andrew Steptoe conducted a study of nearly 4,000 older adults in which he gauged their feelings several times over one day. Five years later, he compared the results of the individuals feelings assessments and whether they were living or deceased. Even after considering each person's age and controlling medical factors and negative health risks, he found that happy individuals had a 35 percent lower risk of dying over that period of time than their grouchy counterparts. "I was a bit surprised that the happiness effect was so strong, even among people who had chronic diseases," Steptoe told MSNBC.

Science Daily reports that over 160 studies support Steptoe's findings that, from college students to elderly people, when all other factors are equal, happy people lead longer, healthier lives.

So compliment your co-worker’s new haircut, bake cookies for a neighbor or even hold the door for that selfish person who took your parking spot. It could brighten the day of total strangers and will increase both the length and quality of your own life.