On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

Feb. 17 is Random Acts of Kindness Day, So Be Nice!

Choosing kindness is not always the easiest thing to do. When someone cuts in front of you in line at the coffee shop or while leaving the parking lot, kindness isn’t always your first instinct. However, research shows choosing and practicing kindness create lasting mental and physical health benefits.

In celebration of Random Acts of Kindness Day on Feb. 17, you can join thousands of people across the country who are choosing to make the world a better place — and getting healthier while doing it!

Random acts of kindness

Are you wondering just what exactly is a random act of kindness? Wikipedia defines it as a non-premeditated, inconsistent action designed to offer kindness towards the outside world. These selfless deeds can be large or small in scope, but the idea is to act kindly toward another person, or even the world at large, unexpectedly and without an ulterior motive.

Most often, the term is attributed to Anne Herbert who penned the book Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty, published in 1993. She began the process of the book with a thoughtful scrawl on a restaurant placemat during the mid-1980s.

Herbert’s scrawl is credited with kicking off the idea of battling the darkness of the world with just a pinch of kindness. The idea quickly spread to bumper stickers, t-shirts, highway toll booths and more around the world. In the years since, college professors, elementary teachers, strangers in shopping malls or coffee shops, church groups and police departments have jumped on board.

For example, one group in Tulsa took advantage of the 2018 holiday season to share random acts of kindness. More than a dozen Tulsa police officers patrolled the streets during the week before Christmas sharing kindness in the form of bags full of groceries, McDonald’s Happy Meal coupons and Visa and gas gift cards. When they were interviewed, the officers said they simply wanted to bring the community some happiness while sharing kindness during the holidays. 

policeman pumping gas

Get involved with Random Acts of Kindness Day

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation started officially working on its mission “to inspire people to practice kindness and to ’pass it on’ to others” in 1995. Since then, the week of Valentine’s Day has been celebrated as Random Acts of Kindness Week or RAK Week. There has been some confusion through the years – having both a RAK Day and a RAK Week – so the foundation has chosen to focus on RAK Day.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is an internationally recognized non-profit. They serve their mission by creating inspiration, tools and resources to help spread kindness. If you’re just getting started, print off some “tag you’re it” cards from the foundation’s website and carry them in your purse or wallet. They’ll serve as a reminder to share an act of kindness and will then inspire the recipients to pass it on!

How do you choose which kind action to perform? It could be anything! You could donate used books to the local library, pay for an extra coffee at the coffee shop or leave a positive online review for a local business. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has ideas you can search in all the following categories:

  • Animals
  • Community
  • Environment
  • Family & Friends
  • Holidays
  • Just for You
  • Kids
  • Online
  • School
  • Senior Citizens
  • Strangers
  • Work

Stop by the foundation’s website to get some ideas for every aspect of your life. If you’re not yet convinced that sharing a little kindness is a good idea, keep reading to learn about how it can make you a healthier person while also making the world a better place.

Good reasons to get involved

It is said that one act of kindness causes ripples through a community like a stone being dropped in still water. Typically, more than just the person giving and receiving are affected by the actions. If kindness spreads, what are the implications of your actions?

Teaching acts of kindness to children

Parents and teachers show kindness toward their students each day but teaching them to be kind is one of the best gifts anyone could give. A recent study discussed in Psychology Today followed a group of kids ages 9 to 11 who participated in at least three random acts of kindness for four weeks and a group who didn’t.

At the end of the study, the students performing the acts of kindness made more friends and enjoyed more feelings of happiness. This also led to less instances of bullying. Since kindness multiplies, these children continue to contribute to a culture of kindness in their schools.

Teaching children to be kind helps them all live happier, healthier lives which in turn allows them to get a better education and receive better grades.

Benefits mental health

Anxiety, stress and pain are all reduced by participating in kind acts. When you engage in kind actions, endorphins are produced, acting as the body’s natural painkiller. Doctors find an average of 23 percent less cortisol, known as the stress hormone, in people who habitually practice kindness.

Research from Emory University, Harvard Business School and UC Berkeley shows that energy, happiness and lifespan can increase when you help others. You may feel less depressed and live longer when you volunteer. In fact, volunteering can lower your likelihood of dying early by 44 percent.

That’s not all though. You’ve probably read that taking care of your mental health can increase your physical health. Keep reading to learn more about how acting kind can help keep your heart healthy.

doctor explaining heart condition to elderly patient

Improves physical heart health

Beyond helping socially anxious people or those who suffer with mental health disorders, living a life including kind acts can keep your heart strong. In a blog post by David R. Hamilton, Ph.D., called the “5 Side Effects of Kindness,” Hamilton explains how it all works.

Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone oxytocin in the brain and throughout the body. Of recent interest is its significant role in the cardiovascular system. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in the blood vessels, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as the “cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart by lowering the blood pressure. The key is that acts of kindness can produce oxytocin and therefore kindness can be said to be cardioprotective.

Sharing kindness isn’t usually intended as a therapy for keeping your body strong, but the idea sure doesn’t hurt.

Putting it into perspective

Sharing acts of kindness can help you live your best live while inspiring others, enriching the lives of the children around you and simply helping people in your community. You can’t help but be inspired by people like the 12-year-old from Yukon who performed 12 acts of kindness for her 12th birthday.

Join people around the country celebrating RAK Day on Feb. 17, 2019. Find fun quotes to share on social media and tag them with the hashtags like #RAKDay and #kindnessstartswithone to become part of the online conversation.

One famous quote about kindness is from James Matthew Barrie, author of Peter Pan. He said, “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” Start out by searching for inspiration online. Then, try holding open a door or letting someone have your parking spot.

Soon you could have a healthier heart and be on your way to living a longer life.

Subscribe to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog

Subscribe for regular emails full of useful and interesting Oklahoma-centric health and wellness info, from the doctors and health experts at INTEGRIS.