The Mental Health Benefits of Random Acts of Kindness

I was recently interviewed for a popular mental health and wellness website about Random Acts of Kindness, and some of the psychological science behind them. Neuropsychological research shows that the act of giving appears to be as pleasurable as the act of receiving, if not more so. A brain-imaging study led by neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health showed that the “pleasure centers” in the brain are fully activated when we engage in random acts of kindness (the parts of the brain that are also active when we experience other pleasures, including eating, hugging, and intimacy). Neurotransmitters- oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins, are all released when we engage in random acts of kindness.

One of the interview questions asked me about creative ways people can show random acts of kindness in a time where they are more needed than ever, but also a time when people have financial and social limitations.

Some of my ideas:
Try babysitting for a parent who works from home, while their children are engaged in virtual learning. Being able to help the child, maybe making a snack, or even serve lunch can be tremendously helpful to a parent torn between meetings and childcare.

I work with some families who have very limited resources, and are attempting virtual learning using cell phones. If you have tech skills, helping families who lack reliable Wi-Fi or computer access set up their virtual learning, and answering questions about possible glitches and problems they may be experiencing can be tremendously helpful.

Befriending a senior who is stuck at home and becoming a phone pal on a weekly basis.

Set a socially distanced movie date every week with a friend or family member who may be lonely or isolated.

Help those who help others. A local restaurant owned by a friend in the DC area, literally serves 100s of delicious meals, delivered, to front line healthcare workers every week. Several patrons who come to the restaurant to buy food for their families have added very generous tips to their bill to help fund this pro bono meal service. Acts of kindness are contagious.

Community food service. A group of neighbors have started making trays of lasagna on weekends and delivering them to housebound folks in their neighborhood who have financial hardship or health issues that make it difficult to leave the home.

Practical donations. From coat and mitten drives in the cold winter months, to toiletries, thoughtful gestures matter. In my clinic, donated designer purses were stuffed with toiletries for women and were much appreciated by clients experiencing hardship.

Using your own personal talent online: random acts of kindness may include hosting a free art lesson, yoga class, writing class, tutoring, even stand up comedy. Many families have lost after school services and recreational opportunities and this can go a long way.

More:

  • Plan a special surprise you would do for someone special in your life.
  • Hold the door for a stranger.
  • Send a hello email or text to a family member or friend you hardly ever see.
  • Give a compliment to someone every day.
  • Make a handmade card, or write a hand written letter.
  • Smile at everyone.
  • Say “I love you” to everyone you love.
  • Do a chore or errand for someone who needs help.
  • What are some other ideas? … please share in comments.
  • More to come.

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