If you look up kindness in the dictionary, you’ll find a simple definition: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. And yet, most people agree that kindness is much more than that. It’s embracing empathy and sympathy for other people. It stems from love, respect, solidarity, and humility.
Beyond kindness making you a wonderful human, many studies show that kindness is healthy for the brain. And because it’s one foundation of a meaningful life, it’s also good for your mental and emotional well-being.
Here are 4 reasons kindness specifically benefits your brain.
1. Kindness Makes You Happier
A Study conducted at the University of California asked a group of people to do random acts of kindness daily for about 2 months. They found that happiness levels of the volunteers increased by about 40%. Another study at Harvard found that giving money to strangers makes people happier than spending the money on themselves.
These studies show that performing these acts activates areas of pleasure, social connection, and trust in the brain. Scientists also found that if people simply think of giving, the brain releases endorphins and oxytocin, hormones that elevate your mood, making you feel better and happier for hours.
2. Being Kind Creates a Positive Feedback Loop in Your Brain
Kindness makes us happier and happiness makes us kinder.
Researchers found that when someone is happy, they are more likely to be giving and kind to others. Studies suggest a positive feedback loop between being happy and being kind. The kinder you are, the happier you are, which then makes you kinder and happier. A win-win all around.
3. Kindness and Togetherness Increase Social Connection and Bonding
Your brain wants you to be social. It’s programmed for it. Your ancestors knew that survival was more likely in a group. And the brain has remembered that ever since.
Some studies suggest that social connection enhances your physical performance and mental clarity. Feeling safe allows you to focus because your attention isn’t on alert for threats.
When you do something good for someone, it includes a degree of social connection and sentimental bonding. Connections resulting from kindness promote a sense of trust and cooperation with others. This makes the bond between individuals stronger.
4. Being Kind Decreases Pain, Anxiety, and Stress
Scientists found that when you do something nice for someone else, your brain releases endorphins, which are the most potent natural painkiller.
Cortisol is the stress hormone. Studies say that kind people have 23% less cortisol than other people.
A study done on a group of people with anxiety asked participants to do at least six acts of kindness weekly. After four weeks, their social avoidance decreased and their mood elevated significantly.
One of the best qualities of your brain is its neuroplasticity. No matter how small your act of kindness may be, it is still good for your brain. Every day, try a new way to give to others. Smile more, give compliments, and help others. It really makes a difference.
If you’re curious about the power emotions can have on you, watch this video: