Tis the season, as the holiday saying goes.
This phrase means so many different things to so many different people; to some it is the season to be more grateful, to some it is the season to be more religious, to some it is the season to feast or buy lots of presents.
And to some it is the season to consciously be a little more kind than the earlier months of the year and spread the “holiday spirit.”
Being kind is such a simple gesture, but it makes us feel good and warm inside. I love it. Random acts of kindness, whether recognized by the receiver or not, is kind of my thing. Volunteering, paying it forward, going the extra mile for others, I am an addict to how good it makes me feel! So it makes me wonder: what causes these awesome feelings? Why does kindness feel so darn good and what are the benefits?
Here are some notable things I found regarding the science of kindness:
All emotions stimulate some sort of chemical in our body, whether it be adrenaline when we are excited or surprised, and catecholamines when we are tipped into anger. When we are kind to others, our brain releases dopamine, the chemical responsible for making us feel kind of high; it’s a “Helper’s High,” if you will. With this comes positive emotions and serenity, which helps us combat maladies, such as depression, severe anxiety and stress. Oxytocin is also released, which is the chemical released when mother’s bond with their children and which literally warms our heart.
The benefits of kindness are not just internal, though. Get this: it is also an anti-ager! Oxytocin, when released, lowers free radicals in the body and acts as an anti-inflammatory. When you’re nicer and more caring, you actually make yourself more beautiful on the outside as well as in.
Caring for others stretches beyond ourselves by improving our personal relationships and, as a result, helping our community as a whole. History has proven it. Altruism is one of the reasons our species has survived so long, as it has taught us to cooperate and ensure the longevity of others.
So, should folks take this holiday tradition and make it a year-round thing? With so many benefits and as a medicine that is virtually free and 100% natural, I think it is worth while for many of us to take this holiday cheer and spread it beyond December. It’s really not hard to do– offer to help the old lady at the store get her groceries to the car, volunteer an hour a week, take your friend to coffee “just because.”
Be kind when you can. It will not only benefit you, but may inspire others as well.