Feel Good: Kindness and Mental Health

Feel Good: Kindness and Mental Health

While often taken for granted, small acts of kindness can have a positive impact on the wellbeing of yourself and others, and can ripple out to the wider community.

Kindness is the act of being considerate, helpful or generous to others. For both the giver and the receiver, even small acts of kindness can increase our feeling of wellbeing and social connectedness which in turn can improve mood and physical wellbeing. Basically there are no down sides to kindness which doubles when shared with others.

Scientific research has shown that kindness is a biological trait that is rooted in our humanity and biology. Being kind, and having kindness extended towards us, feeds our innate need to be loved and accepted by others. We are social animals that rely on the kindness of our caregivers and others for survival from a young age and are therefore drawn towards expressions of kindness as they allow us to feel a sense of safety and belonging.

There are a few theories to what makes this possible. One theory is that the act of kindness releases oxytocin (a powerful hormone created in the brain) into the bloodstream which turns down activity in parts of the brain responsible feelings of fear, otherwise known as our “flight or fight” response. By reducing these feelings, oxytocin allows us to connect and bond with others and even allows us to better form memories of the times we spend with these people. Other research has shown that acts of kindness also release serotonin and dopamine which allows us to feel a sense of satisfaction and pleasure making us more likely to be kind again in the future.

Overall, we are biologically wired towards kindness. Being kind towards others strengthens our ability to connect with those around us which allows ourselves and others to feel a sense of belonging and wellbeing

One overlooked, and sometimes more difficult, aspect to kindness is directing it towards ourselves. We often talk to ourselves a lot more harshly and unfairly than we would do so with a friend or even a stranger, and this can have negative implications for our wellbeing. There is a whole branch of psychology and research that focuses on extending kindness both inwards through the practice of self-compassion.

Dr Kristen Neff, one of the leading researchers in self-compassion, identifies self-kindness as fundamental to self-compassion in addition to being mindful of our experience and identifying our experience with the wider experiences of humanity. Research has shown that self-compassion may help to increase emotional resilience as well as physical and emotional wellbeing. One of the ways you can practice self-compassion is to keep a self-compassion journal which can be used to express emotions and help make self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness part of your daily life. To find out more on ways to practice self-compassion, you can follow this link.

To make adding acts of kindness to your day sustainable, here are a few tips:

  1. Set a daily goal for acts of kindness, aim to do one small act of kindness a day. Remember that small acts of kindness are just as important as big ones.
  2. Start small and gradually increase the frequency and size of your acts of kindness.
  3. Look for opportunities to volunteer and give back to your community.
  4. Practice self-compassion or gratitude daily.

We hope that this article will inspire you to share acts of kindness with the world and towards yourself.


If you would like to access the sources of the information cited here, you can read the following:

Curry OS, Rowland LA, Van Lissa CJ, Zlotowitz S, McAlaney J, Whitehouse H. Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor. J Exp Soc Psychol. 2018;76:320–9.

Brown KM, Hoye R, Nicholson M. Self-Esteem, Self-Efficacy, and Social Connectedness as Mediators of the Relationship Between Volunteering and Well-Being. J Soc Serv Res. 2012;38(4):468–83.

Neff, K. D. & Germer, C. (2017). Self-Compassion and Psychological Wellbeing. In J. Doty (Ed.) Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science, Ch. 27. Oxford University Press.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.