acts of kindness

Did you know that being kind to others is proven to make you healthier? Here are eight quick and simple ways to spread the love

It’s no surprise that being kind can help us feel happier, but it can also be the key to living longer. A recent BMC Public Health review found that helping others on a regular basis can decrease early mortality, while the International Journal of Psychophysiology found those who provide support to their friends and colleagues have healthier blood pressure levels.

Being kind needn’t cost money or take up lots of time. According to the The British Psychological Society, small gestures can even inspire others to pay it forward.

Here are eight easy ways to show kindness every day, even during the busy festive period…

1. Make eye contact

One of the simplest ways to show you’re listening and you care is by making eye contact. It could be a stranger on the bus or with a colleague during a conversation. “It inspires powerful feelings of connection,” says Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell University. This can make others feel more confident and will lead to better social connections.

2. Introduce yourself to your neighbours

51% of us don’t know our neighbours’ first names and over a third of us wouldn’t recognise our neighbours in person. Whether you’ve just moved house or have lived there for years, take five minutes to introduce yourself and find out a little about your neighbours. It might seem nerve-wracking, but you’ll play a small part in decreasing social isolation and strengthening a sense of community.

3. Make someone a cuppa

Random acts of kindness such as making someone a cup of tea can trigger the brain to release a feel-good hormone called dopamine, according to Dr Daniel Glaser, director of science at King’s College London. “The random element added to a kind action can dramatically increase the feelings of pleasure it triggers in the brain as a whole,” he says. We’re lifted by the idea that someone is looking out for us (even in a small way).

4. Forgive someone

We’ve all been hurt by someone else, but did you know that the small kindness of forgiving them can dramatically reduce the negative effects and strengthen your relationships? By letting go of grudges, you’ll also let go of feelings such as tension, anger and depression, according to the University of Tennessee.

5. Write a thank you note

We don’t take the time to pause and be grateful enough, so try putting pen to paper and let someone know how thankful you are. Research by the University of California proves that expressing gratitude can lead to better heart health and boost our wellbeing.

6. Give blood

OK, so this takes a little more time, but it’s a very worthwhile action. Not only does giving blood help the lives of up to three people according to the Red Cross, it can improve your health, too. A study by the American Psychological Association found that people who acted altruistically in this way are generally healthier and live longer.

7. Pay someone a genuine compliment

It could be acknowledging someone’s achievement or complimenting their cooking – when most of us receive a compliment, it triggers reward centres in the brain, according to researchers at the University of Zurich. Our brain reacts in the same way to a compliment as it does to money.

8. Take the night off

We often forget to be kind to ourselves and yet practising self-compassion (the act of being caring and supportive toward ourselves) improves our emotional wellbeing and lowers feelings of anxiety. The Universities of Mannheim and Heidelberg found that ‘me-time’ – having a bath, reading a book or writing a journal – can help increase our self-confidence and improve our resilience. It also means we’re better set up to be kind to others. Win-win!

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