How to Experience the Benefits of Kindness
It seems that regardless of the origins of your moral views, it’s pretty universally agreed that kindness is the right thing to do. Acts of kindness feel good when we do them for others, and it’s enjoyable to be the recipient of them, too.
When we engage in practicing kindness, the repercussions aren’t just a temporary feeling. The benefits of kindness are long-term and there have been plenty of studies that prove the usefulness and pleasure of being generous and caring toward others.
Kindness is important at all periods of our lives, but it can be especially helpful when we’re going through a tough transition like recovery.
Benefits of kindness in the recovery process
There are plenty of benefits to mental health and substance use recovery. Here are some of them:
Performing acts of kindness for others, while typically done with the aim of supporting another, actually has plenty of perks for the individual who does the acts. Whether it’s carrying someone’s groceries or affirming a friend, behaving generously with your time and energy can boost your own mood.
When a person acts altruistically, he or she releases a hormone called oxytocin. This naturally occurring chemical produces feelings of enjoyment, closeness and self-esteem. It increases connectedness and trust. It’s commonly associated with nursing and caring for babies and you can get a solid burst of oxytocin when you help others.
Lowers blood pressure
Volunteering or serving others in any capacity serves to produce some physical benefits, too. Thanks to the oxytocin that is given off when caring for others, acts and words of kindness can lead to lowered blood pressure and better heart health.
The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine states that positive interpersonal connection (through practicing kindness) activates parts of the brain that promote overall well-being. Not only does kindness improve mood, foster community and improve mental health, but kindness lowers cortisol levels, decreasing stress.
Many people who struggle with insecurities and a poor self-image also feel a low sense of self-efficacy. Behaving generously can reverse this negative thought pattern and lead to a belief that a person can change his or her outlook and live a happy life. Those who are kind may feel that their actions have a positive and long-lasting impact.
Increases empathy for others
Seeing people in unjust and unfavorable circumstances brings up powerful moments of reflection. When you’re volunteering at a soup kitchen or clothing drive you may become truly thankful for the blessings in your life and feel a greater sense of empathy for those who have less.
Improves sense of community
Practicing kindness necessitates interacting with others. While many people show generosity by donating money or offering services that aren’t face-to-face, when you’re giving of yourself it’s likely that you’ll spend time with other volunteers or those in need of assistance, building a community in the process.
Kindness pays itself forward
Kindness isn’t just an interaction between you and the recipient of a deed. Acts of kindness that are witnessed by others can also serve to improve their mood, create a sense of safety in a setting and inspire continued acts of benevolence, meaning you’re more likely to reap the kindness of others.
Kindness is for everyone
A meta-analysis on the effects of kindness published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that perks of performing acts of kindness were not limited to gender, age, the type of activity or the outcome of the service. Practicing kindness is good for everyone.
How to practice acts of kindness during recovery
When you treat people with kindness, you’ll recognize the truth of its benefits by the way you feel. If you’re eager to start living generously and giving of your time and talents, here are some easy ways to get started during recovery.
1. Thank your providers
The easiest way to start building a habit of kindness is to thank those who care for you. The people who are involved in your recovery (social worker, therapist, psychiatrist, front desk secretary and others) have invested in you, and genuinely and repeatedly thanking them for their efforts is a thoughtful way to get started with words of kindness.
2. Affirm your loved ones
We often become so accustomed to the supportive love of our friends and families that we forget to remind them why we care about them. Affirming your loved ones with compliments about their personality or the things you have noticed them do is a meaningful way to live generously.
3. Listen to others in recovery
One of the most generous ways we can spend our time is by listening to others. When you open the floor for non-judgmental reflection to hear another’s story or perspective, you’ll be showing kindness in one of the simplest but most impactful ways.
Treat others and yourself with kindness
If you’re in recovery, acts of kindness can go a long way towards improving your mood, increasing your sense of self-efficacy and minimizing the stress of triggers to substance use.
It’s important to show kindness to others, but don’t neglect yourself, either. One of the best ways to show yourself, love, is to start treatment for a substance use disorder. If you’re ready to take the next step, call Pyramid Healthcare today.
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