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Coping through Kindness

January is National Mental Wellness month and in the spirit of self-care, let’s discuss the psychological benefits of taking care of others with random acts of kindness. When you’re feeling anxious or depressed, one of the last things you’re probably thinking to do is to volunteer the little time and/or energy you feel that you have. However, studies show that performing random acts of kindness not only has the physical benefits of a healthier immune system, but also impact the brain’s overall functioning. Performing random acts of kindness improves the brain’s ability to produce the “feel-good” hormones (serotonin and dopamine) that reduce depressive symptoms and anxiety. Researchers at The University of Wisconsin-Madison, furthered this idea by discovering that compassion for others can not only improve well-being but also has the ability to change the brain’s chemistry and in turn increase the frequency with which altruism is practiced in society in general. 

 

Expressing compassion for yourself and others is a cornerstone in creating a life worth living. At times when dark thoughts cause shadows in your mind and hopelessness abounds, spreading joy can light a candle in the dark. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that at least one in five, over 44 million, adults experience mental illness in a given year. Adults living with major depressive disorder accounts for about a third, 16 million adults in that statistic. Finding ways to positively engage with others can improve outcomes for this population. Random acts of kindness provide opportunities to add value to your life as well as that of the ones you choose to help.

 

The concept of “go big or go home” is not necessary to reap the psychological benefits of random acts of kindness. Practicing compassion through performing random acts of kindness can occur in many ways, large and small. Try these on for size to improve your overall mental wellness:

 

 

These are just a few of the hundreds of ways one can practice random acts of kindness in your day to day life. I recommend starting small and doing only what you feel capable of doing. The New Year is an excellent opportunity for renewal. 

 

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”--Leo Buscaglia

 

This practice should be supplemental and is no substitution for receiving help from a mental health professional. If you are feeling anxious or depressed feel free to give us a call at 704-896-7776 for a telephone consultation or to book an appointment.

 

Author
Sheena Beach, MSW, LCSW

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