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How Random Acts of Kindness Can Benefit Your Health

Posted January 31, 2022 by Todd M Ivan, MD

Person shoveling snow

We all know how a random act of kindness can benefit the recipient of the act. Plus, it usually makes you feel good to show kindness to others. But, did you know, these random acts of kindness also have physical health benefits?

A 2016 study shows a connection between giving or helping and the chemical releases in the brain that mimic a euphoric high. This ‘helpers high” shows how generosity can benefit your overall health as much as those who you help. Research shows that giving to others combines the chemicals released in a euphoric high – endorphins, dopamine and endocannabinoids – and may help:

  • Relieve stress and help with depression and anxiety. Endorphins are one of the brain’s natural ways to combat the overwhelming feeling sometimes associated with high levels of stress or depression. By engaging in more acts that release these happy molecules, you’re naturally fighting stress.
  • Maintain better physical health. Research shows those that give of their time in a volunteer capacity usually get more daily physical activity. Although the research is newer, people who volunteered regularly often had better physical health than those who do not.
  • Aid in times of physical crisis. There may be a connection between those suffering from a chronic illness, like cancer or chronic pain and the relief they found as a “counsel” to others suffering. A few studies have shown a more positive outlook, less depression and distress and physical disability in those acting as a counselor to those also suffering from the same conditions.

Studies suggest individuals who witness or receive a random act of kindness are much more likely to perform their own act of giving back. It can also build a stronger community and family experience. Here are a few ideas on how to pay it forward:

  • Let someone go in front of you during a long wait
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter or with a rescue organization
  • Insert coins into someone’s parking meter
  • Pick up the tab of the table next to you at a restaurant or tickets for the people behind you at the movies
  • Volunteer to shovel snow or perform yard work for friends and neighbors
  • Plant a tree or volunteer in your local community cleanup
  • During spring cleaning this year, make it a point to donate your still usable goods to a local charity

Random acts of kindness can also produce a wonderful loop of happiness by increasing extra serotonin in both the giver and receiver of the kindness act. Serotonin aids in mood regulation, social behavior, memory and other important brain functions. It can also start a positive loop of behavior.


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