Acts of kindness are good for others and yourself
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Riverside, Calif. (Feb. 17, 2023) – Random Acts of Kindness Day is observed on Feb. 17 to celebrate and encourage showing kindness toward others.
When people are kind, it increases serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters in the brain, according to Mayo Health Clinic. They “give you feelings of satisfaction and well-being and cause the pleasure/reward centers in your brain to light up.”
We spoke with Dr. Kristin Mauldin, director of the sport and performance psychology program at California Baptist University, to discuss how being kind toward others positively impacts our brains and how it promotes overall mental health.
How does serotonin and dopamine contribute to our overall well-being?
Serotonin is involved in mood regulation and sleep. Dopamine is involved in rewarding feelings that contribute to learning and memory, especially skill and motor learning, attention and giving us that extra boost of pleasure when we do things we find enjoyable.
Why do you think it’s important to be kind?
When we are kind to others, we feel better about ourselves, and we tend to get back what we put out. Ever had someone's bright smile light up your day and mood? Well, often when we are kind and smile at others, they are kind and smile back, so we get the gift in return! Plus, we get feedback, both from our own bodies (i.e. when we smile, that signal is sent back up to our brain) and from those we are being kind to, that is positive and makes us feel good. Studies have shown that helping others and thinking in an optimistic fashion leads to the release of good-feeling neurotransmitters and neurohormones that lead to better heart health. In addition, we will likely worry less and sleep better, with the latter leading to more waste clearing in our brains and more resilience and energy to tackle the next day. Finally, by attending to the health and well-being of others by being kind to them we are being a vessel of God's love.
Why focus on these two neurotransmitters?
Serotonin is naturally relaxing for us, and dopamine makes us feel pleasure. We should take breaks from work and responsibilities and do things that we find relaxing and pleasurable. This gives our brains a bit of a break, especially our prefrontal cortex, and helps us to relax and renew our energy so that we can be energetic, engaged and even more creative when we return to our responsibilities.