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12 Peer-Reviewed Articles on the Power of Kindness an Generosity in Mental Health

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

Kindness and generosity have been shown to have numerous positive effects on mental health. These traits can help reduce stress, improve self-esteem and happiness, and increase feelings of social connectedness.

One of the main ways that kindness and generosity benefit mental health is by reducing stress. When we engage in acts of kindness, our bodies release oxytocin, a hormone that helps reduce stress and increase feelings of relaxation and calm. Generosity can also reduce stress by taking our focus off of our own problems and instead directing it towards helping others.

In addition to reducing stress, kindness and generosity can also improve self-esteem and happiness. When we engage in acts of kindness, we often feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in being able to make a positive impact on others. This can lead to increased self-esteem and a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment. Generosity can also lead to increased happiness, as research has shown that people who give to others experience a boost in happiness and well-being.

Another way that kindness and generosity can benefit mental health is by increasing feelings of social connectedness. When we engage in acts of kindness, we often build stronger relationships with others and feel more connected to our community. This sense of connection and belonging can be incredibly important for our mental health, as social isolation and loneliness have been linked to negative mental health outcomes.

Here are 12 peer reviewed studies which have studied the various effects of kindness and generosity.

Rowland L, Curry, OS. A Range of Kindness Activities Boost Happiness J Soc Psychol. 2019;159(3):340-343. doi: 10.1080/00224545.2018.1469461. Epub 2018 May 15.

Buchanan KE, Bardi, A. Acts of kindness and acts of novelty affect life satisfaction. J Soc Psychol. May-Jun 2010;150(3):235-7. doi: 10.1080/00224540903365554.

Fryburg, DA. Kindness as a Stress Reduction-Health Promotion Intervention: A Review of the Psychobiology of Caring Am J Lifestyle Med. 2021 Jan 29;16(1):89-100. doi: 10.1177/1559827620988268. eCollection Jan-Feb 2022.

Curry OS, Rowland LA, Van Lissa CJ, Zlotowitz S, McAlaney J, Whitehouse H. Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor. J Exp Soc Psychol. 2018;76:320–9. 

Post S. It’s Good To Be Good: 2014 Biennial Scientific Report on Health, Happiness, Longevity, and Helping Others. Int J Pers Cent Med. 2014;2:1–53. 

Jenkinson CE, Dickens AP, Jones K, Thompson-Coon J, Taylor RS, Rogers M, et al. Is volunteering a public health intervention? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the health and survival of volunteers. BMC Public Health. 2013;13(1). 

Brown KM, Hoye R, Nicholson M. Self-Esteem,  Self-Efficacy, and Social Connectedness as Mediators of the Relationship Between Volunteering and Well-Being. J Soc Serv Res. 2012;38(4):468–83. 

Otake K, Shimai S, Tanaka-Matsumi J, Otsui K, Fredrickson BL. Happy people become happier through kindness: A counting kindnesses intervention. J Happiness Stud. 2006;7(3): 361–75. 

Kerr SL, O’Donovan A, Pepping CA. Can Gratitude and Kindness Interventions Enhance Well-Being in a Clinical Sample? J Happiness Stud. 2014;16(1):17–36. 

Pressman SD, Kraft TL, Cross MP. It’s good to do good and receive good: The impact of a ‘pay it forward’ style kindness intervention on giver and receiver well-being. J Posit Psychol. 2015;10(4):293–302. 

Ritvo, E. The Neuroscience of giving.

Fehr E, Fischbacher U. The nature of human altruism. Nature. 2003;425(6960):785–91. 

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