Is Kindness A Natural Antidepressant?

Kindness is a social value with the potential to heal our communities from mental health crisis. Practicing kindness requires a mindset of gratitude and compassion for others—it’s about more than being nice.

As with medical antidepressants, practicing kindness increases levels of serotinin in the brain. People who practice kindness have nearly 25 percent less stress hormones than the average population. Studies have shown kindness boosts the circulation of feel good hormones dopamine and serotonin in the brain.

It releases endorphins and oxytocin, an ‘emotion warming’ hormone that opens the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, and increases feelings of self esteem and self-worth. There’s no such thing as a small act of kindness.

Simply seeing another person perform an act of kindness is enough to release oxytocin. And when we treat others with kindness, our own brain’s reward and pleasure centers light up as if we were receiving it ourselves.

It’s time we all commit to performing an act of kindness everyday, for the mental health of our own self and our community.

Here are some simple ways you can start incorporating kindness into your life

1. Smile at a stranger
2. Volunteer

Here’s a fun fact—People 55 and up who volunteer have a 44% lower likelihood of dying early.

3. Give someone a hug
4. Offer someone a helping hand
5. Send someone words of encouragement
6. Perform a thoughtful gesture of affection
7. Perform an act of giving
8. Share without expecting anything in return
9. Help a senior citizen

Research Links

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27100366 
“Do unto others or treat yourself? The effects of prosocial and self-focused behavior on psychological flourishing,” National Institute of Health (2016)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15740822 
“More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women,” Biological Psychology Journal (2005)

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/135910539900400301 
“Volunteerism and Mortality among the Community-Dwelling Elderly,” Journal of Health Psychology (1999)

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