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Turns Out Performing Acts of Kindness is Key to Improving Your Mental Health

Turns Out Performing Acts of Kindness is Key to Improving Your Mental Health

A new study has found a proven way to improve your mental health.

The study, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, found that performing acts of kindness, such as buying a stranger’s coffee or baking cookies for your neighbor, was more effective in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety than other methods.

“Kindness can positively change your brain,” said psychiatrist Dr. Steve Siegle. “Being kind boosts serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters in the brain that give you feelings of satisfaction and well-being, and cause the pleasure/reward centers in your brain to light up.”

The study tested various methods of cognitive behavioral therapy — non-medicated ways to treat depression and anxiety by teaching individuals how to retrain their thoughts and emotions. The methods included random acts of kindness, planning fun activities into your schedule and “cognitive reappraisal,” which coaches people record any triggering thoughts and focus on resolving their negative feelings.

“We did think that, if there was going to be an advantage of one group over another, it might be the thoughts record group, since that’s such a tried-and-true way of addressing depressive [and anxiety] symptoms,” said Jennifer Cheavens, who co-authored the study. “But the kindness group did as well or better, and that group also had increases in social connection that didn’t happen in the other two groups.”

Overall, all three groups experienced improvements in the measurements, but the group who implemented random acts of kindness saw a much bigger impact on their mental health.

The study concluded that acts of kindness are helpful because it necessitates a connection with other people. Social isolation is a high-risk factor for survival — the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

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