Counselor’s Corner: Self Care through Acts of Kindness

John Mysz, LCSW – 

John Mysz is VSC’s full-time Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

When we think of self-care, we often think of the nice extra things people on TV often tell us to do like take days off, take bubble baths, go on a nice vacation, or get a massage. While these are great, they are more than often not feasible to do with any sort of frequency and leave us feeling like there are no viable options for us. By now you have all read or heard me say plenty about mindfulness which is a fantastic way or caring for yourself and I will continue to do so despite any eye rolls I may receive. However, there is another even simpler way to care for yourself and that’s by providing small acts of kindness for others.

I know this sounds counter-intuitive or that it will only make someone else feel better, but there is plenty of research that shows providing these acts of kindness comes with amazing benefits. Research shows that those who engage in acts of kindness report feeling 50% more energy than those who don’t. There’s also research that reports those who give are often the happiest, release more serotonin, and even decrease the chance of developing heart disease. Specifically, people who practice kindness as a habit have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and more nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels (thus lowering blood pressure).

On top of this, those witnessing the act of kindness actually release more oxytocin throughout their body, which is like our “love hormone”. So, the receiver, the giver, and even random onlookers all reap the benefits of this simple act. Now, this doesn’t mean that if you buy one coworker one Starbucks latte you’ll be happier and healthier forever. However, it is one of the easiest ways to feel better quickly. When we give to others, whether it’s a product, service, our time, energy, or just a hug, you can feel an immediate “helper’s high” for a brief moment or two. And if we can make these acts routine in our lives, they can have those fantastic benefits and can help you lead a happier and healthier life!

So what kinds of acts can you do to be kind to others?

Fortunately for all of us, there are so many! You can tell a coworker how much they mean to you, how much they’re valued, or how much they’ve taught you. You can speak highly of someone when they’re not around or stand up for someone in a meeting. You can put little positive notes on someone’s workstation or include someone in a conversation if they’re not often included. You can do this outside of work as well by letting someone get in front of you on the road or in line at the store. Open a door for someone who’s behind you, pay it forward at Starbucks, or give an extra tip to the employee. Say words of gratitude to an employee at the store/restaurant or a coworker here and mean it!

These are just a few random acts of kindness we can all do easily and quickly while at work and outside. They often don’t take much energy or time, but can make a huge impact on the receiver’s well-being and your own! Think about the last time someone did something nice to you out of the blue. Didn’t it feel great? If you can’t remember the last time, don’t you wish someone would? Be that change and start doing these random acts. You’ll be surprised at how good you feel and how much we can change the environment around us by doing something so simple.

So my challenge to you is this: Do at least two random acts of kindness at work each shift and two outside of work. It doesn’t have to be anything huge or cost any money. It can be kind words or gestures. Be creative and have fun with this!

John Mysz, LCSW

John Mysz is VSC’s full-time Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

Relevant Resources

Mental Health Resources for Veterinary Teams

Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

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