About Nicole Apelian, Ph.D.
This post is shared from Nicole Apelian’s Good Living Posts.
Be Kind. Be Well.
Did you know that people who are kind actually live healthier, longer lives? These benefits stem from what is called a “helpers high”, which is a distinct physical sensation that’s connected with the act of helping. Over the years research has consistently found that kindness is directly tied to our overall happiness and well-being. In our modern lives kindness matters now more than ever—not only for the person on the receiving end, but also for those giving.
Acts of Kindness Help Us Thrive
In one study, researchers found that half of the participants experienced increased strength and more energy after helping. Many also reported they were less depressed and anxious and had a heightened sense of self-worth. Interestingly, making a financial donation also triggers the same dopamine-influenced euphoria by activating the reward center in our brains.
Researcher Elizabeth Midlarsky frames it like this:
Being kind may make us feel better about ourselves as a person or about the meaning of our lives, confirm our self-competence, distract us from our own troubles and stressors, give us a warm-glow feeling, or help us be more socially connected with others. All of these could potentially improve our well-being—reducing our stress, improving our mood, or providing community—and they could hold more importance at different stages of life, too.
Consider the fact that people 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have a 44 percent lower chance of dying—even after factors like physical health, exercise, marital status, gender, habits such as smoking, and more are taken into account. What the researchers discovered is that volunteering is almost as beneficial to our health as giving up smoking!
Bryant P.H. Hui found the same in his published review, Rewards of kindness? A meta-analysis of the link between prosociality and well-being, which examined almost 200,000 participants from around the world:
Helping others is a universal virtue and a very affordable and economic way to benefit others’ and our own well-being,” Hui said. “As the saying goes, helping others is helping yourself.
Kindness and Cultivating Connection
Another benefit of kindness and helping others is that it cultivates a sense of connection. As I noted in True Happiness: Life Lessons from the Kalahari San Bushmen:
In our culture, we tend to think we can handle it all alone. We worry that we might be inconveniencing people if we ask for assistance. But here’s the interesting part: people actually like to help, it gives us a sense of purpose. We’re wired for it. So when we ask for help, or if someone is in need of help, it connects us and creates extended relationships. It builds the village.