We all feel good after an act of kindness. Whether it’s helping an elderly neighbor carry in the groceries or volunteering at the local hospital every week, acts of selflessness reinforce our humanity and make life a little better for the beneficiary.
It’s also good for your own health and well-being.
A paper published by the American Psychological Association reviewed more than 200 studies involving nearly 200,000 participants that examined so-called “prosocial” behavior and its connection to health and well-being.
Researchers say, in aggregate, they found a modest link between the two. They say it was a small but nonetheless meaningful finding. That’s because so many Americans across the nation perform altruistic acts, compounding that modest link into a significant societal impact.
Scientists say random acts of kindness appear to have a stronger association with well-being than formal prosocial behaviors, such as volunteering at a local charity.
The paper’s authors think that might be because situational kindness often leads to social connections and are unlikely to introduce monotony and boredom with regular volunteer work.
One’s age also impacts the type of well-being experienced. Younger folks, the review shows, achieve a level of well-being that includes feelings of psychological fulfillment, like finding meaning in one’s life. Older people reported better health.
Some theorize that performing kind acts can prevent depression and stress, perhaps lowering blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health. A happy mindset has long been associated with improved physical health.
So, remember: Your kindness pays dividends to giver and taker alike.