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We all know the Bible verse “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” as read in Luke 6:31. We hear it as a child and into our adult years: It’s The Golden Rule! However, being kind reaches far beyond benefiting the person who receives a kind act. Studies show that acts of kindness improve our mental health!

Psychology today defines kindness as “a behavioral response of compassion and actions that are selfless; or a mindset that places compassion for others before one's own interests.” In performing acts of kindness, a person undercuts their own selfish needs or desires to help another.

Not only are you helping others when you perform acts of kindness, but your brain gets a boost of serotonin and dopamine - neurotransmitters in the brain that give you feelings of satisfaction and well-being. This causes the pleasure/reward centers of your brain to light up and endorphins can also be released.

“What studies have shown is that when we are either thinking about kind acts or witnessing kind acts or engaging in acts of kindness to other people, there are several biochemical changes that happen in our brain,” says Dr. Bhawani Ballamudi, SSM Health child psychiatrist. “One of the most important things that happens is that it releases oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that’s been studied extensively for its role in promoting a sense of bonding.”

Dr. Ballamudi continues, “Research shows that kindness can be cardioprotective. It can decrease blood pressure and cortisol, a stress hormone, which directly impacts stress levels. Oxytocin releases nitric oxide. Nitric oxide dilates your blood vessels and thereby reduces your blood pressure and improves heart health.”

“There’s also research looking at oxytocin and its effects on reducing inflammation. Reducing inflammation, in some ways, protects you from some chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and cancer and that leads to overall better health and overall longevity.”

It is important to teach children while they are young to be kind. Consider volunteering with your children so they can have the experience of feeling good when doing kind things for other people. It is equally important to learn and practice self-kindness.

Dr. Ballamudi says, “It is very important to be kind to yourself because we are all living in a highly competitive society and we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others and putting ourselves down. We often engage in negative self-talk and that leads to negative feelings, negative emotions. This in turn can lead to anxiety and depression.”

There are many ways to show kindness, such as volunteering with a local charity, cleaning up after yourself, sending a text to a loved one, letting someone who wants to help you, help, and making someone laugh, are all ways to engage in kindness.

Small changes can make a huge impact in the world we are living in today. If you want to see a world where kindness is built into business decisions, government policy and official systems, it all starts with you.

Remember, treat yourself as you would treat your neighbor and treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated. This is the Golden Rule!

NAMI Greater Athens, TX provides education, advocacy, and support for individuals with a mental illness and their families.

On the Net: https://www.facebook.com/NAMIGreaterAthens/

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