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kindness and mood

The Link Between Kindness and Mood

What is the link between kindness and mood? And does kindness really affect your mental health? In light of World Kindness Day on the 13th of November, we are going to explore these questions in this blog post.

But first – what is kindness?

Kindness is choosing to do something that helps others that is motivated by genuine, warm feelings. Kindness often means putting other people’s needs before our own. It could be by giving up your seat on public transport to someone who might need it more, or offering to make a cup of tea for someone at work. Kindness can be seen in small or large acts, but the positive impact can be felt no matter what.

How are mental health, kindness and mood linked?

Kindness releases feel-good hormones

Have you ever noticed that when you do something nice for someone else, it makes you feel better too? This isn’t just something that happens randomly—it has to do with the pleasure centers in your brain. Acts of kindness increases the level of serotonin in the brain, which is the feel-good hormone that makes us feel happiness. Just like exercise, kindness also releases endorphins, a phenomenon known as a “helper’s high.”

kindness and moodContagious smiling

Being kind is likely to make someone smile and if you see that smile for yourself, it can be catching. Research within the field of neuroscience indicates that witnessing someone else show an emotion automatically stimulates the same areas within our own brain, as if we experienced that same emotion ourselves. For example, there may have been a time where you found yourself laughing just because someone else was.

Righting a wrong

This phenomenon also allows us to empathise with others when they are experiencing negative feelings, as they make us feel down too. This is especially true for close family and friends, as our representations of them in the brain physically overlap with our representations of ourselves. Doing a kind act to make someone who is sad feel better can also make us feel good – partially because we experience the same relief they do and because we are putting something right. While this is particularly strong for those that we have our closest relationships kindness and moodwith, it is also applicable to humanitarian problems such as war or natural disasters. Getting involved with charities that concentrate on these problems gives the opportunity to have a positive influence, and consequently betters our mood.

Making connections and reducing isolation

Kindness provides many different possibilities to create and strengthen our social connections with others. Acts of kindness such as a giving someone a thoughtful gift or even a coffee reinforces relationships, which is also connected to elevated mood. Likewise, engaging with charities provides the chance to connect with someone in another part of the world through donating to improve their life. Volunteering also uncovers new groups of people to connect with other volunteers and those you are helping.

A kind identity

Most of us would like to think of ourselves as a kind person, so acts of kindness help us to show that positive identity and leave us feeling proud of ourselves. A recent study demonstrated that even young adolescents in first year of secondary school understood that kindness can make you feel “better as a person … more complete”, resulting in increased levels of happiness. This is even more significant when the act of kindness connects with other aspects of our personality and can result in greater benefits for our mood. For example, an art-lover could donate to an art gallery, or an animal-lover could rescue a cat.

kindness and mood

Kindness comes back around

The psychology of kindness highlights that there are many possible motivations for kindness and one of these motivations is reciprocity; the returning of a favour or “paying it forward”. This can occur directly or indirectly. Someone may remember that you helped them previously and thus more likely to help you in the future. Or the kindness of one person may encourage others in the group to also embrace kindness, leading to more people with happier moods.

Being kind can elevate your mood, but we also know that being in a good mood can make you kinder. This creates it a beautiful two-way relationship that keeps on giving.

World Kindness Day is 13th November 2022.

Written by: Philippa Carroll, Psychotherapist, APPIICP

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