You’re probably familiar with that surge of satisfaction you feel from giving a loved one an impromptu gift. Or maybe you’ve noticed that helping a colleague with a task puts you in a better mood. You might not be surprised to discover then, that studies have found performing acts of kindness can benefit our mental health1,2.
Read on as we uncover the benefits of performing acts of kindness, and offer some ideas to get you started.
The benefits of acts of kindness
A recent study1 tested a group of individuals experiencing depression, and had them take part in either a meditation exercise, or complete an act of kindness, every other day for three weeks. By the end of the study, researchers found that participants in both groups reported reductions in their symptoms, with participants who completed the acts of kindness reporting the biggest reduction compared to the other group.
However, if you’re someone who finds interacting with people — especially strangers — causes feelings of stress or anxiety, performing acts of kindness may seem like a difficult task. Yet another study2 showed that socially anxious individuals who engaged in thoughtful acts displayed an increase in relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance. While this area requires further research, initial findings have indicated that showing kindness to other people could improve the fear of social interaction.
Gestures to get you started
Here are our top four ways to show you care.
1. Put it in writing
Chances are there’s a person in your life who’s been particularly supportive or helpful in the past and perhaps doesn’t know just how much you appreciate them. When it comes to expressing our gratitude to people, it can sometimes be tricky to get the words out — so why not write a letter? If there’s somebody who you’d like to say ‘thanks’ to for any reason, a handwritten note could be a wonderful surprise for them.
2. Donate or volunteer
Donating or volunteering doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming, but these acts can make a big difference to someone’s life. The key is to think about your values or passions, and find something that resonates with them. You could donate clothes, volunteer at a food co-op or take part in a local working bee.
Smiling at a stranger may seem like a tiny thing, but it can often be just what that person needed to brighten up their day. Next time you’re walking down a busy street or ordering your morning coffee, try looking up and smiling at someone.
4. Share how you feel
We don’t always share how we feel with the people who impact our lives, but this simple act can be a great pick-me-up. If there’s an independent musician or artist whose work you enjoy, tell them so! Or if a friend has recently achieved a great accomplishment, tell them that you’re proud. Even a small message of support or encouragement can have a big impact.
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