Kids (and teachers) can reap the positive health benefits of a simple action: being nice to one another.
Building a kinder classroom yields all sorts of benefits for teachers and students, from enhancing listening skills to allowing for greater cooperation and sharing opportunities. But did you know that kindness offers significant health benefits, too? Here’s how being kind boosts your — and your students’ — overall health and happiness.
1. Kindness makes you feel good. Literally.
When you lend a hand to someone else, you experience what’s known as a “helper’s high.” That’s because your brain releases endorphins, the chemicals that make us feel good. In fact, the neural circuits that are involved in chemical “highs” are the same ones activated by kindness and compassion.
Pro tip: Tune into Season 5, Episode 8 of 3 Ps in a Pod, the Arizona K12 Center podcast, to see how one Arizona community forged a new future after tragedy by building on the simple concept of intentional kindness.
Kindness in the classroom tip: Start a piggy bank to raise money for a local charity or a community cause.
2. Kindness puts you in a happy mood.
Altruism also triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin, which is known to help reduce stress and boost mood. Kind acts also increase levels of serotonin, another mood-boosting chemical that helps bring us feelings of satisfaction and contentment.
Kindness in the classroom tip: Reward students for picking up trash during recess or around school grounds.
3. Kindness keeps sick days at bay.
Oxytocin is the hormone that keeps on giving. In addition to elevating moods, oxytocin also reduces inflammation in the body, which helps prevent against headaches, diabetes and weight gain. And even the smallest acts of kindness can release dopamine and endogenous opioids, both of which ease pain.
Kindness in the classroom tip: When a student is sick, have the class make a handmade get-well card.
4. Kindness eases anxiety.
Whether it’s nervous energy or an all-out panic attack, anxiety manifests in many ways. The easiest way to calm the nerves is to simply be nice to others. Anxiety is associated with low positive affect (PA), which refers to a person’s experience of positive moods. Studies have found that when people engage in kinds acts, they had significant increases in PA, which in turn reduces anxiety.
Kindness in the classroom tip: Encourage peer tutoring.
5. Kindness forges strong bonds.
It’s clear that altruism is beneficial mentally and physically to both the giver and receiver. But one interesting perk: Research shows students who performed kind acts enjoyed increased peer acceptance — that is, more friends. To put it plainly, we like people who do nice things for us.
Kindness in the classroom tip: Pair students with a buddy and ask them to list their partner’s best qualities.