February 14th through 20th is known as Random Acts of Kindness Week. It is designated to bring awareness to the benefits of being kind, not only to others but also to ourselves.
Researchers have dedicated years to exploring the effects of giving and receiving. Research shows that when we do things for others, we do get repaid—not just through reciprocation, but as a result of the psychological benefits acts of benevolence produce in the giver.
Jamie Gruman, Ph.D., a Full Professor and Senior Research Fellow in the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, notes a couple of studies that show the complementary effects of giving and receiving. In one, employees at a company in Spain were asked to either perform acts of kindness for colleagues, or asked to simply count the number of kind acts they received from coworkers. It turned out that the people who received acts of kindness became happier, demonstrating the value of benevolence for the receiver. Those who delivered the acts of kindness not only showed a similar trend towards being happier but also had an increase in life satisfaction and job satisfaction, with a notable decrease in depression. The givers benefited even more than the receivers did! The positive effects of being kind were contagious in that the beneficiaries of the acts of kindness ended up spontaneously paying it forward and doing extra nice things for other colleagues. The study concluded that when we give kindness to one, we spread kindness to many.1
In another study that took place in China, researchers asked participants to wait in the lobby of a university building because they hadn’t yet determined which room they’d be using for the study. When each participant arrived in the lobby, a female research assistant greeted them standing beside two cartons at the bottom of a flight of stairs. In one scenario, the assistant pretended to have trouble carrying the cartons up the stairs, dropped one, and asked the participants if they’d be willing to help her. In the other scenario, the assistant simply said that the first part of the study involved participants carrying a carton up the stairs. Afterwards, participants in both scenarios were asked to estimate the weight of the carton. The participants who acted out of kindness by helping the assistant carry the box up the stairs estimated its weight as lighter than those who simply carried the carton because they thought it was part of the study.2 Being kind clearly helped to lighten the load!
The benefits from being kind are actually rooted in science, not just in perception. Being kind boosts our levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that fuels our feelings of well-being. Similar to exercise, being kind releases endorphins and produces what is known as a “helper’s high.”3 Kindness also releases the hormone oxytocin, which in turn causes the release of the chemical nitric oxide, which expands the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure. Oxytocin is therefore known as a cardio-protective hormone.4 In this way, kindness actually strengthens the heart physically and emotionally—no wonder kind people are often described as having “big hearts.”
Oxytocin also helps reduce inflammation in the body, and even small acts of kindness can trigger its release. Preventing inflammation is one of the key ways to decrease the risk of many health issues, including diabetes, cancer, chronic pain, obesity and migraines.According to a study of adults aged 57-85, volunteering manifested the strongest association with lower levels of inflammation.5
If you don’t already perform random acts of kindness in your daily life, this is the perfect time to try it out. The results may surprise you in a completely positive way and help you achieve your Active Wellness goals!
As we fast-approach Valentine’s Day, think about what you can do for those you care about, and consider giving them the precious gift of heart health with the V-Day Promo Pack from Nikken! It contains one bottle of Kenzen® Bergisterol® capsules and one jar of Kenzen® Super Ciaga® powder, a dynamic duo for the heart. And, if you hurry, you will also receive the value-added Kenko® Heart Set, while supplies last. The V-Day Promo Pack is available through February 28th.