It is important for our wellbeing to get a regular D.O.S.E . (Dopamine. Oxytocin. Seratonin. Endorphins) of happiness – making changes in your life to produce the chemicals in the brain that encourage good mental health. Showing kindness is a great way of boosting those DOSE chemicals. Even better, just thinking and talking about kindness can improve happiness.
Dopamine is released in the brain when we perform acts of kindness and it helps to boost our psychological health. It is our pleasure/reward chemical and the feeling kindness dopamine produces is often referred to as the ‘helpers high’.
Oxytocin is an amazing chemical often referred to as the ‘love hormone’ which is released in response to emotional warmth. It is involved in strengthening relationships, building trust and decreasing social anxiety. Oxytocin release stimulates the production of another chemical, nitric acid, in the blood vessels. In response to this, arteries go soft and expand, reducing blood pressure and in this way protecting the heart and the cardiovascular system – helping us to live longer. Empathy and compassion also have an anti-inflammatory effect via oxytocin which can help to relieve pain.
Seratonin is a chemical messenger in the brain that regulates our mood and is produced in response to acts of kindness. It provides us with a feeling of satisfaction and well-being – it also calms us down. Healthy levels of serotonin reduce anxiety and depression and make us feel happy. Seratonin is increased in those who give, who receive and also those who are watching acts of kindness or the reactions of those involved.
Endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers – the so-called ‘runners high’. Kindness has been shown to release endorphins in the brain and ‘Substance P’, a chemical that blocks pain. Endorphins and ‘Substance P’ also strengthen our immune system.
In addition, kindness reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol in turn reducing anxiety and depression.
Acts of kindness need to be repeated to get the benefit of these changes on a regular basis – kindness is most beneficial as a practice. It gives us a sense of purpose and meaning; it helps us to build relationships with others; counters loneliness; gives us a feeling of cohesion and belonging; and it leads to prosocial behaviour. Being kind helps us to help ourselves and the community.
What’s more, it is contagious – paying it forward has become a new thing that is catching on everywhere.
And it is so easy, isn’t it. Simple things such as holding the door for someone, smiling at someone, listening to a friend, giving a compliment, donating, volunteering – all make them and us feel a little bit better.
As the Dalai Lama said, “Be kind wherever possible. It is always possible.”