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3 Steps to feel more connected this Holiday Season: How moments of kindness can deeply influence our mental health and emotional well-being.
Holiday Season is already stressful in general anyway, and this feeling can be exacerbated during a pandemic, making it even more important to be kind to yourself. This can be as simple as indulging in self-care, trying something you’ve always been interested in or thinking about things from a new perspective.
Now more than ever it is a time to be kind. Sending a thoughtful note to a faraway friend, shoveling snow from an elderly neighbor’s driveway, or agreeing to an afternoon of free babysitting for a busy parent can make a huge difference in someone’s day. Let’s take a look at the science-backed health benefits of being kind to others and how these acts of service can offer extra emotional support during the holidays.
Mental Health Benefits of Kindness
Being kind can go a long way toward improving your emotional wellbeing. A 2019 study in The Journal of Social Psychology found that people who performed kindness activities for seven days saw a boost in happiness. The degree to which their happiness increased was directly tied to the number of acts of kindness they performed.1
“Giving back to society is not a purely altruistic concept—we feel better by giving or being kind, therefore the act benefits both parties,” says Meghan Marcum, PsyD, chief psychologist at A Mission for Michael, a mental and behavioral health treatment center in Southern California.
Random acts of kindness toward others can increase oxytocin, which is a hormone that makes us feel connected to each other and that we can trust each other. These three chemicals can have a profound impact on our mood and overall happiness. Being kind can help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well. A study in the journal Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science found that people who practiced a kindness mindset had 23% lower cortisol levels than the average person.
What’s more, doing something nice for others helps strengthen social ties and the sense that you’re part of a community.
Last, but not least, if you want to get through this atypical holiday season, the solution is as simple as being kind—to yourself, to others, to your community. Here are 3 steps you can take to cultivate kindness this month:
1. SHOW YOURSELF KINDNESS
It’s important to look for positive differences in this season than in previous years. Perhaps you can avoid awkward encounters at the Christmas Party at work, for example. If setting up decorations in your home brings you joy, start putting them up now. If decorating for Christmas stresses you out, give yourself permission to take a break this year. Identifying sources of joy for yourself and your family will be key to maintaining positive mental health during this time.
2. MAINTAIN CONNECTIONS WITH LOVED ONES
With many of us tired or burnt out from using daily Zoom meetings, finding new, creative ways to connect with loved ones will be key to mastering the holiday season. For example, sharing family texts, playing interactive online games, or participating in virtual wine tastings or cooking classes can create a sense of connectivity. Additionally, finding ways to laugh with others during this time is important to sustaining positive mental health, providing a lighter topic of discussion among families or friends. Moreover, connecting with loved ones can especially help elderly or those living alone as they might be feeling more isolated than usual this time of the year.
And remember, maintaining connection with others doesn’t have to be too technology-heavy; a simple phone call is a kind and often welcomed gesture.
3. GIVE BACK
The good news is that kindness is contagious! When we receive an act of kindness from someone, it prompts us to want to be kind to someone else. Start looking for ways to be kind today, and you may just start a trend in your community. Here are 10 ideas to get your started.
- Let someone else go first
- Give an unexpected gift
- Pay for the person behind you in the drive-through or the grocery store
- Do a chore for someone without telling them
- Write a handwritten note telling someone something you appreciate about them
- Bake cookies for someone
- Hold the door open
- Shovel your neighbor’s driveway.
- Smile! Sometimes a simple smile is enough to brighten someone’s day.
Once you start looking for opportunities to be kind, you’ll find that they are all around you. During this holiday season, people can empower themselves to focus on their mental health and wellbeing by taking the time to decompress, finding ways to connect with family, and, overall, identifying new ways to recharge that’s meaningful and productive.
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