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.
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.
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.
Five acts of kindness in a week can increase your
happiness for up to three months
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.
In the spirit of Christmas, we have provided 12 Acts of Kindness ideas to help get you started:
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.
It is really important to pause before you start carrying out Acts of Kindness to consider the following:
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