How Random Acts of Kindness Can Ease Depression

As you probably know — maybe even firsthand, depression is more than just feeling blue or having negative emotions.

That happens to all of us. That’s normal.

Depression is a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest that negatively affects everything in your life — how you feel, think, and behave. The condition can be accompanied by numerous physiological symptoms, like lack of energy, insomnia, digestive problems, joint pain, migraines, and even cardiovascular issues.

Along with numerous lifestyle changes you can make to help ease depression, research confirms that performing random acts of kindness can aid in recovery. Kindness and empathy help us relate to other people and have more positive relationships with friends, family, and even perfect strangers that we encounter in our daily lives. Besides just improving personal relationships, however, kindness can actually make you healthier and happier.

Gratitude Eases Depression

The journal, Review of Communication, published results of a study which showed that expressions of gratitude benefit your relationships with other people, health, and emotional wellbeing. The team of researchers who worked on the paper explained that, in your brain, gratitude is processed as a social experience because it flows from the perception that you have benefitted from the intentional or voluntary action of another person.

Gratitude is integrally associated with communication and social interaction. To experience gratitude, you have to receive a good message (i.e. that someone or something has positive value) and internalize that message or give credit where credit is due. Being grateful for other people and appreciating their presence in our lives is itself an act of kindness.

These findings agreed with the results of other another study which found that targeting the brain’s “positive affect systems”, the neural mechanisms responsible for positive emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, to be highly beneficial for improving wellbeing, particularly in people with anxiety and depression. One of the most common symptoms of depression is feeling hopeless or worthless where a person perceives everything and everyone to be against them and feel like they’re not good enough to experience happier emotions. Activating the brain’s positive affect system with expressions of gratitude can start an upward spiral in a depressed brain and begin recovery.

Kindness as a Cure for Emotional Wellbeing

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” Plato

When facing difficulties, you might be inclined to wonder “why me?” If you believe bad things are always happening to you, these feelings will only magnify when depressed. Random acts of kindness have the potential to counter this kind of negative feeling and benefit your overall emotional wellbeing. For example, one study, whose findings were published in the journal,

If you believe bad things are always happening to you, these feelings will only magnify when depressed. Random acts of kindness have the potential to counter this kind of negative feeling and benefit your overall emotional wellbeing. For example, one study, whose findings were published in the journal, Emotion, found that any behavior that gets you interacting with other people can generate positive feelings. Naturally, acts of kindness usually require socializing with others.

It’s logical to think that treating yourself better would make you feel better, but it doesn’t always work that way research found. Surprisingly, in the aforementioned study, participants who performed random acts of kindness, whether for the world or other people, were more likely to experience improvement in their mood than individuals who only did nice things for themselves.

Doing nice things for others boosts your serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well-being. Performing kind acts for others also releases endorphins, creating a phenomenon known as a “helper’s high,” and promotes feelings of connectedness and accomplishment, which increase other happy brain chemicals.

Acts of Kindness

Although depression can make you want to distance yourself from people and withdraw from activities you once enjoyed, making the effort to be kind to and interacting with others can start your brain on a path of recovery. Depression isn’t unbeatable, and you can come out of it the winner.

Here are some ideas of random acts of kindness that can help you:

  • Pick a cause that is close to your heart and volunteer.
  • Donate anything you can: money, books, clothes, food, or a skill.
  • Make a handmade card for someone’s birthday, some other occasion, or no reason at all.
  • Hold the door for a stranger.
  • Compliment someone out of the blue.
  • Text, call or email a family member or friend you haven’t heard from in a while just to see how they’re doing.
  • Smile at someone.  Look them in the eye and flash your pearly whites.
  • Help a senior man or lady with their groceries.
  • Spend quality time with loved ones.
  • Pay for the next order behind you at the coffee shop or drive through.
  • Bring donuts to share at work.
  • When you notice it, compliment a parent on how well-behaved their child is.
  • Make it a point to someone’s boss about a job well done.
  • Offer to cook lunch or dinner or bring food to a friend or family member who’s sick.
  • Give someone a hug.
  • If you know that someone can’t afford a book, clothing item, or some other item but you can, buy it for them.
  • If your sibling is going through financial difficulties, offer to pay a bill.

So, go ahead and volunteer, help someone in need, buy someone coffee or lunch, or try one of these great ideas to help someone and give your brain a boost in the process. Challenge yourself to do one act of kindness every day. It could prove to be a recurring pick-me-up you need to help your brain pull out of depression.

Conclusion

Random acts of kindness and expressing gratitude can go a long way in improving your mental health. Science confirms that pro-social behaviors generate positive moods, particularly in people with anxiety or depression. By doing something nice for someone else, you’re also helping yourself at the same time.

Guest post author:

Meighan Sembrano is an enthusiast and passionate writer. She is a contributor to Consumer Health Digest. She is expertise in Beauty and skin care articles. Also, have contributed in the health and fitness field. Her work gives an enthusiast twist to the readers. She resonates the readers with her sincere and thoughtful words. You can follow Meighan on Twitter and Facebook.

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6 Comments

  1. Great ideas here! I was stuck by this especially: “Surprisingly, in the aforementioned study, participants who performed random acts of kindness, whether for the world or other people, were more likely to experience improvement in their mood than individuals who only did nice things for themselves.” It’s interesting how research is backing up the benefits of spiritual qualities like kindness.

    • Thanks, Sandra. I love it too when science backs up what used to be considered “alternative” practices. Not so alternative anymore.

  2. I think it is important to realise that bad things are not happening to you but that things are happening for you to grow and evolve. It is nice to know how doing random acts of kindness can help someone with depression. Great ideas on how we can give more kindness to the world!

    • That is a healthy and productive perspective, Evelyn. I like it! Unfortunately, when depressed, one can’t usually believe or see the wisdom in this. I sure do now, though!

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