One Kind Turn Repays Another

One Kind Turn Repays Another:

How Acts of Kindness Can Reduce Stress Over Christmas

The Christmas Season & Stress

For some, the festive season is the most anticipated time of the year. However, for many, just the thought of Christmas sends their stress levels sky-high. Whether you love it or not, Christmas will bring with it some inevitable stress whether it is worrying about sticking to your Christmas budget or being around difficult family members. Other contributors to Christmas stress can be routine disruption, pressures to have the ‘perfect’ Christmas, and triggered feelings of grief if you have lost someone special to you. These factors have led to Christmas being considered as one of the six most stressful life events, alongside events like divorce and moving.

As a result, it is particularly important to look after your own wellbeing and mental health at Christmas by helping manage and reduce the impact of festive stress. Yet, many people feel they don’t have the time or the money to carry out self-care during the festive period. However, research from institutions such as Harvard and Yale Universities have discovered an easy, free, and effective stress management technique that most of us already do at Christmas – simply, the Act of Kindness.

Acts of Kindness

The Australian Kindness Movement defines an Act of Kindness as “a spontaneous gesture of goodwill towards someone or something”. With the ‘festive spirit’ encouraging an attitude of generosity and care for others, kindness and Christmas are often seen as one and the same. However, what research has found is that your Christmas kindness can significantly reduce your stress levels, both physically and mentally benefitting yourself and others around you.

Multiple scientists from neurobiological, psychological, and sociological disciplines have discovered that being kind to others not only makes the recipient feel good, it can actually improve the giver’s stress levels, mental health, emotional wellbeing and physical health. Not only this, studies have found that acts of kindness can be infectious in communities and result in a kindness chain reaction.

Why Does It Work? The Science of Kindness

Neurobiological studies have found that when a human being performs an act of kindness, the brain produces the neurochemicals known as the ‘Happiness Trifecta’: Oxytocin, Dopamine, and Serotonin.

The release of these neurochemicals send happiness boosts around our body, similar to the feeling you get after exercise or when you cuddle a pet, that is termed as a ‘helper’s high’.

Not only does it feel good, the release of these hormones balances your serotonin levels (imbalanced serotonin levels can lead to depression), lowers your blood pressure (improving cardiac health and circulation), lowers your cortisol levels (making you feel less stressed and improving your digestive health), and blocks pain signals to the brain (helping reduce levels of psychological and physical pain). They also can aid with digestion, healing and even give you a longer life expectancy.

What science has discovered is that our brain’s physically reward us for being kind to others, helping us live longer, healthier and happier lives.

Watch this quick video created by ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ that further explains the science of kindness:

Watch TEDTalk “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over” – Mel Robbins.

Benefits of Kindness

Drawn from multiple scientific studies, the many benefits of acts of kindness have been summarised into physical, psychological and social benefits.

Physical Benefits:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved circulation
  • Longer life expectancy
  • Strengthened immune systemcirculation
  • Improved cognitive performance
  • Increase in energy
  • Lower heart rate
  • Balanced cortisol levels which result in less internal stress
  • Can diminish physical pain levels
  • Improved weight control
  • Improvement insomnia symptoms
  • Reduces excess stomach acid which can aid in digestion
  • Relief from arthritis and asthma
  • Decreased healing times after surgeries

Did you know?

Five acts of kindness in a week can increase your
happiness for up to three months

Benefits of Kindness

Psychological Benefits:

  • Increased feelings of happiness
  • Creates a sense of euphoria and exhilaration
  • Decreased feelings of loneliness, depression and helplessness
  • Increase sense of calm and relaxation
  • Improves your sense of vitality
  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces psychological pain
  • Helps manage depression and anxiety
  • Leads to a heightened sense of wellbeing
  • Helps you create a ‘kindness bank’ of memories that can be drawn on in the future helping boost self-esteem and increase resilience levels

Social Benefits:

  • The recipient of your kindness often feels happy, valued and love
  • Leads to others following suit and being kind to others in return
  • Improves social relationships
  • Increased sense of connection with others
  • Contributes to positive communities

Given the extensive benefits a simple act of kindness can bring, let’s look at what acts you can do this Christmas to be kind.

12 Days of Kindness
12 Ideas for Christmas Acts of Kindness

In the spirit of Christmas, we have provided 12 Acts of Kindness ideas to help get you started:

  • Hold a door open for someone– help someone feel treated.
  • Leave post-it notes with positive messages on your mirror– whether for your roommates or family members leave messages to help brighten their mood.
  • Say thank you - let someone close to you know how much you appreciate them by sending them a text message.
  • Donate clothes, toys, or non-perishable food items - why not purchase some extra food in your groceries or an extra toy during your Christmas shopping and donate to charities such as the Smith Family, The Connections Uniting Care Christmas Food and Gift Appeal or the Kmart Wishing Tree with Salvation Army.
  • Smile at a stranger on the street – help cheer up a passer-by.
  • Give up your seat on the bus to an elderly, disabled or pregnant person – make their commute a little easier.
  • Help out an elderly neighbour – acts like offering to pick up groceries can make a huge difference.
  • Reduce the road rage - let a fellow drive merge into your lane to help them on their way.
  • Go visit someone in hospital– Christmas can be a lonely time for people in hospital, contact your local hospitals to see how you can bring some Christmas cheer whether it is chatting to patients or leaving a bouquet for someone in need.
  • Clean up your local area -pick up trash at the park or playground to help give back to your local community.
  • Become a mentor – mentoring allows you to support your peers by sharing knowledge, experience and emotional help to equals. See if your work has a mentoring program you can sign up to or look online.
  • Volunteer – many charities are in desperate need of volunteers this Christmas. Get involved with activities such as gift wrapping, making deliveries, preparing food, fundraising or sorting donating items. Take a look at vacancies at VOLUNTEER AUSTRALIA. or GO VOLUNTEER.

Get Inspired

As a result of all the benefits from such a simple process, daily acts of kindness have become increasingly popular. Organisations such as Random Acts of Kindness and the Australian Kindness Movement have been set up to inspire acts of kindness at an individual as well as community level. 
 
In Australia, the Australian Kindness Movement, founded in 1994, promotes the practice of kindness throughout Australia with events such as example of event, aiming to transform individual and community consciousness. If you’d like to get more ideas for acts of kindness visit their website here. 

Before You Start

It is really important to pause before you start carrying out Acts of Kindness to consider the following:

  • Do something you enjoy: make sure that you carry out Acts of Kindness that align with your interests to make them more fun and more achievable for you. For example, if you hate shopping maybe don’t volunteer to shop for a friend. Instead, you might decide to treat the family to a movie night.
  • Stay simple: remember Acts of Kindness don’t have to be grand gestures or expensive – simple acts such as a smile are the easiest and sometimes most powerful acts of kindness.
  • Give within your means: Acts of Kindness can deplete energy, time and sometimes money. Make sure you don’t overdo it, be careful not to provide more than you can give to avoid burnout and stress.
  • Give within your means: Acts of Kindness can deplete energy, time and sometimes money. Make sure you don’t overdo it, be careful not to provide more than you can give to avoid burnout and stress. Be kind to yourself: Most importantly, remember that you deserve kindness too! Try to carry out acts of kindness for yourself over Christmas and remember to not expect too much of yourself.

To Finish

Acts of kindness are a powerful tool that can not only benefit those around you, but also help reduce the impact of Christmas stress, positively contributing to your mental and physical health long after the acts are carried out. So why not give it a go this Christmas? Remember, just one small act of kindness can make a huge difference.

If you or someone close to you needs support, contact Acacia Connection for an appointment.

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