Did you know that Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) are some of
the best free pain relief and stress reduction remedies we have?
Do you know what RAK is and why it matters?
Is it something you practice in your daily life?
Or have you, perchance, been the lucky recipient of a RAK?
Maybe it’s time for a week-long Random Acts of Kindness challenge?
RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
This week, in a series of seven articles, I’d like to talk about Random Acts of Kindness (RAK). If you tag along, we will be discussing what Random Acts of Kindness are, and why/how they matter. We will also take a look at how and how practising these random acts of kindness can help alleviate pain, reduce stress and make your life happier.
I hope that you will find something that resonates with you in these texts, and I would love to see you accept my 7-Day RAK Challenge. If you do, please don’t forget to come back to tell me all about how it went and what you learned from the experience.
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Most people have experienced at least one random act of kindness in their life. It might have been something so profound that it changed your life forever; but it is more likely that it was a perfectly timed, yet barely noticeable, act that meant the world to you when it happened.
One of the reasons these experiences are so special is that they are highly subjective. For some people they are few and far between, whereas others seem to enjoy a constant trickle of them. They can also be of completely different natures:
- For one person, the kindness may be that one time someone unexpectedly reached out and helped them in their most desperate hour of need;
- For another, it may be something simple, like someone helping them lug the pram, or a heavy suitcase, up the stairs at the train station;
- A third person’s favourite memory of kindness bestowed might have been a comment, a compliment or a friendly piece of advice that had great significance for them; and
- For a fourth person, it might have been something as simple as a friendly smile that lit up the room in the midst of a dark and dreary day.
To the recipient, a random act of kindness can be such a joy. Such a blessing. But there is more than instant gratification to this experience. Not only can it improve your general sense of well-being – it is actually beneficial for your physical and mental health too.
Better yet, it is not just the recipient who stands to gain something from the kindness transaction. It may very well be the one who is reaching out to surprise others with kind words and deeds who ends up reaping the biggest rewards.
So, how exactly can something as simple as a random act of kindness affect our health and wellness? Let’s take a look at some of the benefits.
REDUCED STRESS = BETTER HEALTH
Stress is a major risk factor for a number of serious illnesses from metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease to cancer. Scientists have spent many years trying to understand the relationship between stress and illness; but, as facebook would say, “it’s complicated.”
There are many different types of stress and not all of them have negative effects. At least not on all people at all times and in all situations. There are, for example, people who do better when they are subjected to a certain amount of stress. And there are studies showing that short-term stress can help boost the immune system.
Unfortunately, the kind of stress most of us encounter, and have to contend with, is of the chronic variety and there are no positive aspects of that beast. Without going into specifics (as it’s not medicin or biology we’re here for), chronic stress:
- suppresses the immune system, which can lead to a wide variety of illnesses;
- makes you susceptible to viral infections;
- exacerbates breathing problems in people with asthma;
- alters insulin needs;
- leads to diabetes and obesity;
- alters the acid concentration in the stomach;
- causes ulcers and/or ulcerative colitis;
- causes atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries);
- triggers neuroses, depression and schizophrenia; and
- is linked to tumour development and the suppression of natural killer cells that prevent metastasis and destroy small metastases.
The complete list of problems chronic, or long-term, stress has a hand in is v-e-r-y l-o-n-g, but I think we have seen enough in the list here above to know it’s something we want to stay clear of.
But what if we’re already feeling stressed out? And what if we’re already dealing with some stress induced problems? Well, the good news is that there are effective antidotes. They can be used both to ward off stress symptoms before they become harmful and to improve, or even help cure, stress induced conditions. [1.]
Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the positive effects random acts of kindness can have on giver and recipient alike.
HAPPY HORMONES = PAIN RELIEF = HAPPY DAYS
We have no real control over when, or how often, we receive acts of kindness from others; but we do have control over when, and how often, we dish them out. We can change our mindset and control our actions. Making kindness one of our fundamental values, and random acts of kindness one of our guiding principles, we can engage in a truly transformational never-ending cycle of give and receive.
The beauty of it all is that when we focus on someone else, we have a unique opportunity to gain new insights and perspectives that can help us make sense of our own situation. And, as an added bonus, doing something good for someone else makes us feel better.
Our body responds to acts of kindness by releasing “happy hormones” into the blood stream. These hormones, chemicals that are produced by different glands in our body , are like tiny messengers travelling through the body and playing a part in various bodily processes.
There are four types of hormones that have been labelled happy:
- The feel-good hormone dopamine is associated with pleasurable sensations;
- serotonin helps regulate our mood, sleep, appetite, digestion, learning ability and memory;
- the love hormone oxytocin promotes trust, empathy, and bonding in relationships; and
- endorphins, or endogenous morphines, the natural painkillers that can make us feel euphoric.
The combined effect of the happy hormones makes us feel better both mentally and physically. Endorphins are produced in the brain and nervous system, and research shows that when we do something for someone else they are released into our brain. That is probably the closest we can get to pain relief on tap without the use of needles and prescription drugs.
Numerous studies have shown a positive effect on the mood in people who engage in random acts of kindness. We tend to feel better about ourselves when we do good deeds and this acts as a mood enhancer.
Fun fact: researchers can actually see the pleasure and reward centers of the brain light up in those who perform the RAKs in pretty much the same way as in those who receive them. There’s even a name for this phenomenon – it’s called a helper’s high.
GRATITUDE AND BETTER RELATIONSHIPS
On top of making us feel better about ourselves, doing nice things for other people can also make us more aware of, and grateful for, our own blessings. This is, of course, especially true in cases where the person we reach out to is less fortunate than us, or if they were in a particularly rough spot.
There is something remarkably powerful about the realisation that even when we give a fraction of ourselves, or of what we have, to someone else, we are effectively changing the world. We may not be able to eradicate world hunger or find a cure for COVID-19, but we can literally change another person’s whole world! And if we’re lucky, we may inspire them to start paying it forward.
Before you know it, even the tiniest act of kindness can set in motion a chain of events that may end up saving lives, mending broken relationships, preventing companies from going bankrupt and creating supportive communities where people can strive for personal and professional development in a healthy and nurturing environment.
Another knock-on effect of RAKs is that people who have been the lucky recipients tend to remember the incident with great fondness, joy and gratitude. Through the giving and receiving of these acts, we promote good feelings, develop our interpersonal skills, and create bonds leading to better and more meaningful relationships.
Today, we started our first Kindness Theme Week off with an introduction to the concept of Random Acts of Kindness. We also looked at some of the amazing benefits these acts can offer both giver and receiver.
In next week’s post we will continue this theme by looking for examples of kindness that may serve as inspiration for the upcoming RAK challenge.
Until then, remember that the size of the gesture doesn’t matter: Doing good always makes a positive difference. Both for the giver and the recipient.
- Please note, Random Acts of Kindness are not a miracle cure for cancer, auto-immunity or any other severe illness; and it is most certainly not an alternative to evidence-based medical treatment. Having said that, it is worth noting that the positive effects of RAK on your mental and physical health may function as a powerful complementary therapy even in cases of chronic and severe illness.
- Not all chemicals are bad for us!
After 25 years of anonymous blogging on a variety of free platforms, Evalena Styf decided to go pro and put all of her writings on the wall. But it would be on a domain that she owned. In her personal blogs, she primarily writes about personal and professional development; about living the dream; and about how to keep on living and loving when everything seems to be falling apart.
Using her knack for storytelling, Evalena dives into her pool of personal and professional experiences to bring a wide range of difficult and diverse topics to the surface; e.g. funkophobia, social exclusion, chafing societal norms, mental & physical health issues, racism, poverty, identity, creativity, nerdiness, lusting for life and longing for death.
YOU MADE IT ALL THE WAY HERE? NOW, WHAT DO WE DO?
HAVE A CUPPA AND A CHINWAG?*
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*A cuppa is what we call a cup of tea (or any other hot beverage at a stretch), and a chinwag is nifty little word for what you do when you’re making your chin wag = a talk
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