Benevolence is what allows people to live in communities that encourage generous attitudes and acts of goodwill, whether that means buying coffee for the person in line behind you or volunteering at an animal shelter. But could a generous attitude lead to great health?

One study from 2016 found the acts of giving or helping generated a chemical release of endorphins, dopamine and endocannabinoid, which mimicked a feeling of a euphoric high. An altruistic attitude generates a bodily response as well.

Kindness is “the thoughts, feelings and beliefs associated with actions intending to benefit others, where benefiting others is an end in itself, not a means to an end,” said Daniel Fessler, the institute’s inaugural director.

Here are a few scientifically-proven health benefits of being kind, according to CNN.

Longevity

Author Christine Carter in her book “Raising Happiness: In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents” noted that people who volunteered more experienced fewer aches and pains.

“Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status and many more,” she said, per The Kindness Cause.

“This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church,” she added.

Blood pressure

According to a Dartmouth University fact sheet, carrying out acts of kindness can lower blood pressure.

Dr. David R. Hamilton said that a hormone known as oxytocin is released. This hormone releases a chemical, nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure.

In a study from 2015, one group of people with hypertension was asked to spend $40 on themselves, while another group was told to spend on others. They found that those individuals who spent on others saw their blood pressure reduce.

Pain reduction

On the subject of managing pain, Cedars-Sinai’s psychiatry professor Dr. Waguih Ishak said that being helpful to others can increase levels of an endorphin-like chemical that can relieve pain, according to the hospital’s website.

“A recent study found that people who said they would donate money to help orphans were less sensitive to an electric shock than those who declined to give,” per CNN.

Happiness

Ishak said that therapies with a focus on mindfulness are popular for treating anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions. Carrying out acts of kindness is an important part of those therapies.

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According to Greater Good Magazine, a study published last year found that overall, people who were kind tend to have better well-being. This research included nearly 200,000 participants from around the world.

Can you get better at being kind?

If you aren’t the type to feel generous naturally, remember that it is a skill waiting to be cultivated, as researchers at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin–Madison found, according to a press release.

“It’s kind of like weight training,” said Helen Weng, a graduate student in clinical psychology and lead author of the paper. “Using this systematic approach, we found that people can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help.”

Here are 10 simple ways to get started:

  • Appreciate your friends and family for the little things they do.
  • Donate your gently used clothes.
  • Make time to volunteer frequently.
  • Help neighbors when possible.
  • Let cars enter your lane when driving.
  • Send thank-you notes.
  • Leave a generous tip.
  • Be willing to share food or belongings.
  • Offer to help out a tired parent.
  • Smile like you really mean it.
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