Random Acts of Kindness Day 2023: The health benefits of a simple act

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This year’s Random Acts of Kindness Day falls on Friday, but you might want to consider being kind every day.

The foundation behind the day wants you to be a “RAKtivist” or a “Random Acts of Kindness activist”.

Here’s why: Spreading kindness doesn’t just help others feel better about themselves — it can also boost the giver’s health and happiness, according to research. It’s a win-win for everyone. Here’s why.

Putting the well-being of others before our own without expecting anything in return – or what is called being altruistic – stimulates the reward centers in the brain, studies show.

These feel-good chemicals flood our system, producing a sort of “helper’s high”. Volunteering, for example, has been shown to reduce stress and improve depression.

That’s not all: the same activity can also reduce the risk of cognitive decline and even help us live longer.

One reason for this, experts say, is because kindness contributes to our sense of community and belonging. And that, studies have found, is an important contributor to a healthy, longer life.

Making donations to others, or “prosocial spending,” has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve heart health.

One study asked a group of hypertensive people to spend $40 on themselves, while another group with high blood pressure was asked to spend the money on others.

Researchers found that those who spent money on others had lower blood pressure at the end of the six-week study. In fact, the benefits were as great as those from healthy diet and exercise.

Giving seems to lessen our pain. A 2019 study found that people who said they would donate money to help orphans were less sensitive to electric shocks than those who refused to give. Additionally, the more helpful people thought their donation would be, the less pain they felt.

How could this happen? The study found that areas of the brain that respond to painful stimulation appear to be immediately deactivated by the experience of giving.

In Britain, researchers found that being kind could increase happiness in as little as three days. The study divided people into three groups: The first group had to do an act of kindness every day; the second tried a new activity, and the third did nothing. Those who were kind and did new things saw a significant boost in happiness.

You will experience even greater joy if you are creative with your acts of kindness. Happiness researchers Sonja Lyubomirsky and Kennon Sheldon found that people who did a series of good actions throughout the week showed greater increases in happiness than those who performed the same activity over and over again.

And here’s the good news: It seems that kindness can be anonymous or visible, spontaneous or planned, and can be as simple as paying a compliment or opening a door for someone.

OK, you’re convinced and want to jump right into being a kinder and more helpful person. There are literally hundreds of ideas on the internet, but here are a few to get you started:

  • While driving, give way to the car that wants to enter your lane.
  • Give a genuine compliment to a family member, friend or colleague (via text, email or video chat, please).
  • Do the same for your boss, who probably never gets compliments!
  • Let go of grudges and tell people you forgive them (unless telling them makes it worse).
  • Be there for a friend who is having a tough time. Don’t try to fix it; just listen.
  • Leave a thank you note for your postal service provider.
  • Tip your delivery person.

Want more ideas? The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation also has lists of kindness ideas, organized by work, community, environment, animals, strangers, children, older people, and more. If you become a “RAKtivist”, you will receive a monthly kindness challenge designed to help a worthy cause or individual.

You make the world a better place, says the foundation. But don’t forget – every kindness you give to others is also a gift to yourself.

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