Healthy Minute: 'Happiness through Kindness and Service'
Living a therapeutic lifestyle is important. One important element of a therapeutic lifestyle is service. Participating in service and exemplifying kindness can help not only those at the receiving end of the generosity, but also those who give. Kindness is good for a person’s physical and emotional well-being. Practicing kindness can make a person happier, improve physical health, and even lengthen a person’s lifespan.
Neuroscience and psychology offer scientific evidence that shows the physical and emotional benefits of service and acts of kindness. According to research from Emory University, when a person does an act of kindness or service, the pleasure centers of the brain light up. These are the same areas that light up for the person receiving the kindness. This distinct physical sensation associated with helping is known as the “helper’s high”. Performing acts of kindness increases the serotonin level in the brains of both the giver and recipient of the kind act; anyone who simply witnesses the act gets the boost! This increase in the brain’s feel-good chemical causes both giver and recipient to feel stronger, more energetic, calmer and less depressed.
Kindness also helps to build and nurture social relationships. Showing kindness and empathy helps us relate to others, making the relationships we build more positive and fulfilling. Any behavior that gets people interacting with one another can generate positive feelings. Naturally, any activity that involves participating in service or an act of kindness involves interacting with others. In doing service you are showing kindness and compassion for another person.
Helping others also buffers the negative effects of stress on one’s well-being. By showing empathy and doing acts of kindness, a person is distracted from negative thoughts that may be weighing on themselves. By focusing on being compassionate or kind to others, a person is responding to their own pain and the other’s pain with compassion and caring action. When you tune into another’s needs and send compassionate thoughts to them it fills you with more energy. It is human nature to want to help someone that is suffering or in need of help. We care about others and it feels good to relieve the stress we feel when we see another suffering.
Being compassionate, kind, and doing acts of service produces a sense of fulfillment. By helping others, one has a greater feeling of self-worth and purpose. You feel better mentally and emotionally when you stop thinking about negative stressors in your own life and take a few moments to help someone else in need. Being kind is good for yourself and those around you.
Submitted by: Liz Severance, Communication Intern at Northwest Passage
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