There are numerous health and overall wellness benefits to showing kindness and giving/receiving compliments. The physical and emotional health benefits associated with acts of kindness include increased productivity, decreased stress, pain and insomnia, as well as, beneficial effects to the immune system and production of serotonin.
Interestingly, you do not have to actually be the giver or receiver of the act of kindness to experience a benefit. When others witness acts of kindness, a phenomenon known as the “Mother Theresa Effect” can occur. Researchers at Harvard University noted this phenomenon after study participants who watched a film documenting Mother Theresa’s work in Calcutta, experienced a marked increase in saliva Immunoglobin A levels, an antibody which affects immune function.
Christine Carter, PhD, wrote an article in Psychology Today discussing the health benefits of altruistic acts. She reports that those who are kind, not only lived longer but that those who volunteered experienced less pain, lower levels of heart disease, depression and anxiety, and those aged 55 or older were 44% less likely to die.
These benefits did not only affect adults, adolescents too are positively affected by altruism. She went on to note that adolescents were found to be happier when their motivation was truly altruistic; they also experienced less depression and suicide. Additionally, she went on to report findings of studies reporting less school failure, pregnancy and substance abuse in teenagers who volunteered.
In addition to the physical effects of compliments and other altruistic acts, a 2012 study completed by researchers at the Japanese National Institute for Psychological Sciences, found that study participants who received direct compliments for completing tasks were stimulated to perform tasks better than those who were not.
Researcher, Professor Sadation, explained “To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money.”
So in addition to an apple a day, a daily act of kindness or a compliment, may just keep the doctor away!