Many people underestimate the power of kindness, gratitude, and helping others. While we learn that these are good behaviors, their scientific benefits and positive mental health effects often aren’t realized. It’s more than just doing what’s right and following moral laws. One of the best ways kids, teens, and adults can improve their mental health is to be kind, grateful, and helpful.
Start With Kindness
Parents and schools often teach that kindness matters. And it indeed does. Being kind to others can help lead us to paths of happiness. Research suggests that acts or experiences of kindness release chemicals in the brain that can improve our overall well-being. For example, it can lower blood pressure, ease stress, lower anxiety, promote sleep, strengthen the immune system, and reduce drug cravings.
Kindness begins with self-compassion. The way we treat ourselves carries over to how we treat others. And the way we treat others should be the way that we want to be treated. A study from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that when people benefit from kindness either by giving, receiving, or witnessing, they are more likely to spread kindness with more good acts. One of the best ways parents can instill kindness in their kids is by modeling it.
Kind acts can be big or small. Here are some examples that kids, teens, or adults can do:
- Smile and make eye contact with others to make their day happier
- Give a genuine compliment
- Just listen and be present
- Send a kind message (text, email, card, or letter)
- Call a friend or family member, and let them know you’re thinking about them
- Say please and thank you
- Only make positive comments on social media posts
- Acknowledge someone’s kindness to you
Along with kindness, gratitude can improve our mental health. For example, many studies have found that people who find reasons to be grateful tend to be happier and less depressed. Each day, try writing down at least one thing that made you feel thankful over the past 24 hours. What is one thing that you’re glad that you have or were able to experience? It can be anything, big or small. Some days may be harder to do this than others but try not to go to bed until you’ve thought of one thing about the day that made you grateful. One thing that makes many of us grateful is that with COVID now being more under control than a year ago, most public places have reopened, and there are more opportunities to see family and friends. Like kindness, practicing gratitude is something that people of all ages should do. Kids and teens who routinely think of things that make them feel grateful will be more likely to practice being thankful as adults.
Find Ways to Help Others
Helping others is a form of kindness that can promote positive mental health. Sociologists have found that teenagers who volunteer have better grades and self-image than those who do not. There are many ways that kids, teens, and adults can help others. Here are some examples:
- Offer to help without being asked
- Volunteer and encourage your family to join
- Let people through while in traffic
- Hold the door open for someone
- Spend time studying with a friend or family member who may be struggling in class
Try to make kindness, gratitude, and helping others a routine in your life. While these behaviors can’t guarantee that things will always turn out the way that you’d like, they can help lead to better mental health and happiness.
In closing, I want you to know that I’m grateful that you took the time to read this article, and I wish you much happiness. Kindness matters, and so do you.