Kindness and its connection to mental health

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We live in a society where it is increasingly common for people to look out for themselves, and themselves only, and honestly, who can blame them? It’s easy to forget to think of others when we have places to be and bills to pay. We look out for ourselves and the people close to us and sometimes that’s the only way we can get by.

We all know that being kind is important, but we often tend to put it off, believing that only large scale acts of kindness like volunteering and mentoring are the ones that will truly make a difference. We say that we’ll get around to it when we have more time, while time is a commodity that is increasingly hard to find.

Prioritizing acts of kindness can seem unimportant, especially when we find ourselves thinking “what’s in it for me” more and more often. It turns out, that there is something in it for you. That familiar sensation, the warm and fuzzy feeling that often follows a good deed, can actually be good for your mental health.

Happiness is contagious: when we do something that makes others feel good, we in turn, feel good ourselves. That smile that the server gives you when you tip 30 per cent instead of 15? It spreads to you too. When the people around you feel positive emotions, that positivity spreads and becomes beneficial to your mental health.

In addition to simple positive emotions, it can also make you feel less isolated. When you volunteer in the community, you’ll tend to feel more a part of it, giving back will increase your sense of belonging, decreasing feelings of loneliness. Acts of kindness help to keep you thinking more positively. When you notice your own acts of kindness you’ll start to notice others. The world doesn’t seem like such a terrible place when you do that.

For students, it can seem particularly daunting. We don’t have a lot of free time or disposable income to contribute to a cause, so we tend to sit back and take the cynical view that we can’t make a difference, but we can. We might not be able to donate thousands of dollars to charity, but we can give the cashier our change while we’re out getting lunch. We might not have days to organize a fundraiser, but we can all pitch in to help.

Small acts of kindness can make the world a better place and they can make you feel better. Buying ethically sourced products, holding the door for someone, giving up your seat on the bus, helping a friend study, picking up trash on the way to class. These are all acts that don’t cost very much money, don’t take too much time, but can make someone’s day better.

So smile at strangers, tip your barista, share your notes, pick up the check at dinner, write a note to your friend telling them how much they mean to you. Donate blood, volunteer for a few hours every month. Not only will you help the world be a better, kinder place, you’ll be doing yourself a favour as well.

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