SPREAD RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS, and you can boost your happiness and health. Today we explore how giving can boost your psychological and physical well-being.
In the COVID pandemic age, I have thought a lot about the emotional well-being of my patients and others. I have also been looking at Blue Zones, areas in the world where we will find the longest living people.
You are probably wondering where I am going with this thought thread. Today, I want to briefly explore how giving (and being a part of a community) can boost your physical and psychological well-being.
Blue zone — Nicoya (Costa Rica)
This Central American nation isn’t that far from the United States, but it is well ahead of us in life length.
While there are many contributing factors to the longevity of the Nicoya region of Costa Rica, the good folks at bluezone.com note that Nicoyan centenarians “get frequent visits from neighbors. They know how to listen, laugh, and appreciate what they have.”
Community matters: Nicoyan centenarians frequently visit with neighbors, and they tend to live with families who provide support and a sense of purpose.
The theme of robust communities extends to the other Blue Zone communities, including Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia, Loma Linda (USA), and Ikaria (Greece).
Giving is good for health
Do you volunteer for a hospital, soup kitchen, or other organization? Did you know that you are getting psychological and physical health benefits? These upsides may include:
- Improved self-esteem, mood, and stress levels
- Lower blood pressure
- Greater levels of satisfaction
- Longer life
Volunteer, and you stimulate your brain’s reward centers. Joggers have their “runner’s high,” and the charitable experience a “giver’s high.”
Dopamine is associated with our motivation and arousal. Serotonin is linked to learning, memory, appetite, digestion, and sleep.
Finally, oxytocin — the so-called cuddle hormone — affects blood pressure, sexual arousal, empathy, and bonding. Abonus of oxytocin surges? Reductions in pain and better wound healing.
Did you know that we can positively impact the brains of others? Mirror nerve cells (neurons) in our brains are powerful: Smile and others smile as you trigger their mirror neurons.
Get creative with your acts of kindness. Happiness researchers Sonja Lyubomirsky and Kennon Sheldon discovered that individuals who performed a variety of acts of kindness throughout the week had more significant happiness increases than those who performed the same activity repeatedly.
I was delighted to run across the term “RAKtivist,” or a “Random Acts of Kindness activist” in a recent CNN piece. Spread kindness, and you will not only help others feel good about themselves. You also get a boost in health, and happiness is a great bonus.
What does this mean from a practical perspective for me? I am writing more old-school notes (handwritten) to folks about whom I care, reminding them of how much I value them. I randomly positively respond to online posts. We have too much negativity in that space. Of course, I must do much more.
Do you do random acts of kindness? If so, what do you do? Thank you for joining me today. I genuinely appreciate that you took the time to read this piece.