As we enter the holiday season, being kind to our fellow humans and being thankful for those in our lives is always stressed. Author Anna Taylor once wrote, “to offer comfort, hope, and love to even one person is to bless and be blessed.” In order to receive these blessings that Taylor was talking about, we are required to intentionally place the wellbeing of another above our own wellbeing. In doing so, we can reap a number of physical and mental health benefits for ourselves as well.
Benefits of Being Kind
When examining the effects that being kind has on us as human beings, it’s easy to think first on how being kind to others makes one more likeable and generally elevates your social status. However, The Mental Health Foundation (2020) goes one step further, explaining that “kindness makes us feel like we belong to a community. Knowing that we are connected with those with whom we live and work wards off feelings of loneliness that can bring down our mood”.
In addition to feeling a sense of belonging, there are also physical and mental health benefits to being kind. Helping someone in need or engaging in an act of kindness for another releases a chemical in our brain called oxytocin. This chemical has been touted worldwide as the “happy chemical.” Higher levels of oxytocin make us more trusting of others, generous with our time, talents, and belongings, and friendlier overall. Dopamine is also released in your brain when you engage in acts of kindness. Dopamine is responsible for helping us to feel happy and relaxed.
Dartmouth completed a study where they examined the effects of kindness on physical and mental health. What they found was that being kind increases “energy, happiness, and pleasure” while also increasing one’s lifespan. Similarly, kindness was found to decrease “pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and even blood pressure”.
So, now that we know the mental and physical health benefits for being kind, how can we cultivate that practice within our families? Check out these five ways to enjoy being kind as a family this holiday season.
5 Ways to Enjoy Being Kind as a Family this Holiday Season
Pick a family to bless with a meal
Who doesn’t appreciate not having to cook dinner for a night? Bonus tip: always check with the family ahead of time for any allergies or preferences.
Let your children pick our gifts for other people
I remember, as a child, we would always go to the mall each holiday season. I would then take the money I had carefully saved, and I would purchase gifts for my parents with it. Make sure to let your children experience the joy of giving this season too!
Go through toys that may not be receiving much love.
Each year, we go through toys in December. We purge broken toys or ones with missing pieces, but there is always a large amount of perfectly good toys that we may have just outgrown. These can be donated to a local shelter, daycare, or thrift store for another to use.
Send a card or pay a visit to someone special
Covid has made this difficult, but as things begin to reopen, consider visiting someone you know who is in the nursing home – even if it’s just a wave through the window. Alternatively, if your kids are creative and want to spread some joy, have them create hand-made cards to deliver to neighbors, friends, and relatives.
There are thousands of ways that you and your family can express kindness to others. And if you are a parent looking to offer support or guidance to other parents, we’d love to invite you to join our Recharge group for parents on Facebook.
I moderate the group, and you can request to join here – looking forward to seeing you there!
More Resources on Kindness
If you found this article helpful, check out these other resources on kindness:
- Making Kindness a Family Affair…
- Resources and downloadables from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation
PIH Health, (2020). The Kindness and Mental Health Connection. Retrieved from https://www.pihhealth.org/wellness/articles/the-kindness-and-mental-health-connection/
Random Acts of Kindness. (2020). Kindness Health Facts. Retrieved from https://www.dartmouth.edu/wellness/emotional/rakhealthfacts.pdf
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is a care coordinator for a local mental health agency in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com) – her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.