Guest Post by Kaia Roman of The Joy Plan
We’re doing a 5-day #JoyChallenge this week at Annmarie Skin Care. Each day, you’ll find a new challenge up on the blog. These practices are described in more detail in my new book The Joy Plan (coming July 11, pre-order here).
When I dedicated 30 days to joy in hopes it would change my life, I didn’t just want to focus on myself. In addition to being a happier person, I also wanted to be kinder and more generous. As it turns out, practicing acts of kindness is an excellent way to generate joy.
Day 3: Kindness
Acts of kindness increase motivating dopamine in the brain, for both the giver and receiver.
Having compassion and empathy for others can improve your mood, not only by taking your attention off of your own troubles but also by creating a feeling of interconnectedness. When we perform acts of kindness, our brains reward us with a release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine.
Studies have shown that both givers and receivers of kindness feel more optimistic afterward, and these effects can be long-lasting.
Today, challenge yourself to do three kind things for someone else. These can be as simple as a smile, or as complex as you can imagine. After yesterday’s Gratitude Challenge, you may be inspired to spread the love by telling others how grateful you are for them. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or difficult to be kind. Here are some ideas:
- Smile more. Smiling may be the simplest thing you can do to both experience and spread the positive benefits of kindness. Even if you force a smile, it immediately triggers the release of endorphins in your body. A Swedish study found that when people looked at others who were smiling, their facial muscles twitched into smiles involuntarily. It seems that smiling truly is contagious.
- Give compliments. A simple compliment can make someone feel like a million bucks. Literally. Researchers at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan found that the same area in the brain, the striatum, is activated when a person receives a compliment as when they are given money. Generating more positive energy through the simple act of speaking kind words can be a powerful way to make a difference in the lives of those around you.
- Volunteer your time, talents, or treasures. Volunteering has been shown to lower depression, increase one’s sense of well-being, lower blood pressure, and extend life expectancy. You may have more time than money on your hands, or vice versa, but there is always something that you can give and people and organizations that will welcome your contribution. Consider cleaning out your closet and taking a donation to your nearest charity thrift store. Offer your time, skills, or financial resources to an organization whose mission you wish to support. Or simply help a person in need the next time you have the opportunity.
- Reach out in small ways. Most of us are busy, but it doesn’t take much time to send a short message, write a kind note, wish a happy birthday, or let someone know that you’re thinking about them. Small acts of kindness performed frequently will create a regular boost in your own mood as well as improve the days of others.
- Think big. Your acts of kindness might begin within your small community, but you may soon find yourself wanting to make a bigger contribution to the world. There are endless ways to do this, from connecting with organizations that are doing work you feel passionate about to starting a business with an altruistic aim. There is no limit to what your kindness can do. And since dopamine is released with each act of kindness, you may find it becomes a bit of an addiction.
Joy is a habit that can be cultivated with practice and repetition. And it’s more fun to do it with friends! Check back tomorrow for Day 4 of the #JoyChallenge: No Complaining.
*This post is partially excerpted from The Joy Plan: How I Took 30 Days to Stop Worrying, Quit Complaining, and Find Ridiculous Happiness. Available everywhere books are sold July 11. Pre-order on Amazon.
DiSalvo, David. “Study: Receiving a Compliment has Same Positive Effect as Receiving Cash.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 28 Nov. 2012. Web. 15 June 2017.
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Kleiman, Karen. “Try Some Smile Therapy.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 01 Aug. 2012. Web. 15 June 2017.
Schonert-Reichl, K. A., E. Oberle, M. S. Lawlor, D. Abbott, K. Thomson, T. F. Oberlander, and A. Diamond. “Enhancing cognitive and social-emotional development through a simple-to-administer mindfulness-based school program for elementary school children: a randomized controlled trial.” Developmental psychology. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2015. Web. 15 June 2017.
Watson, Stephanie. “Volunteering may be good for body and mind.” Harvard Health Blog. N.p., 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 15 June 2017.