Kindness matters.

A single act of kindness

throws out roots in all directions,

and the roots spring

up and make new trees. “

Amelia Earhart 

When is the last time you did something kind? Did you hold the door for someone? Offer directions to someone who may have seemed lost? Carry someone’s bag so they could walk up stairs easier? Did you let someone go ahead of you at the checkout?

Kindness is not only something that makes you and the person you are being kind to feel good, it also has physical benefits to your health. It doesn’t need to be a big thing or something that is planned. More often than not these are brief small acts of kindness and it’s these that contribute to an overall sense of well being.

Aside from the feeling of joy or “helper’s high” that occurs after you have helped others, there can be a longer period of calm. This is triggered by a release of endorphins which are the body’s natural painkillers.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (who also have a random acts of kindness week Feb 9-15th) has determined the following points as they relate to the benefit of performing kind acts:

“Helping contributes to the maintenance of good health, diminishes the effect of disease and disorders, both psychologically and physically. Stress-related health problems improve after performing acts of kindness’

We live in a stressful world where kindness is not always rewarded or expected. Seeing a need and stopping to fulfill it if we are able to is not something that happens on a day to day basis. When we stop to act in a kind manner we are also slowing down and that can give us a way to calm down our own stress response. There is also the phenomenon of the ripple effect: those that witness your kindness or are the object of your kindness are more apt to feel good and also act in kind ways. It’s a way to reconnect with the world around us and be more present.

The mind-body health connection is not a new field of study, however, a new branch of science has emerged after 25 years of scientific study called psychoneuroimmunology (PNI – the study of the interconnectedness of the nervous, endocrine and immune systems) (You can read about it here if you are interested.) This is something that as nutritionist I am extremely interested in as all body systems are interconnected, any imbalances in the various systems of the body need to be addressed and the causes of the imbalances found (This is something that I will admittedly geek out on by digging deeper and deeper – and then there are the many, many connections via the vagus nerve that I will save for another day). It’s fascinating how the body deals with stress and the ways it directly impacts your immunity and health.

Here are some small acts of kindness that are easily incorporated into a day:

  • holding the door for someone
  • asking the checker at the market how their day is going
  • allowing someone to go ahead of you in a long line
  • introduce yourself first at a social gathering to people that may be standing off to the side (not everyone is confident in large groups)
  • make eye contact with those you are speaking with
  • writing a note (paper and pen) to a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while
  • handing your dishes stacked to the server at the restaurant so they don’t need to reach
  • being present with your friends and family and putting away your illuminated devices when spending time together

Remember any act of kindness should be enjoyed, it needs to make you feel good when you do it. When you are the recipient of kindness take a moment to share gratitude with that person – as receiving and watching acts of kindness also benefit the person. How will you incorporate kindness into your day to benefit your health?

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