Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Practicing Kindness Has Positive Impact on Mental Health, APA Poll Finds

In a world where much feels outside of our control, U.S. adults largely recognize the positive feelings that stem from practicing small acts of kindness.

This was one of the major takeaways from APA’s most recent Healthy Minds Poll, which asked 2,210 adults living in the United States about the ways in which they practice kindness, most often see others practicing acts of kindness, and more. According to the survey, 89% said that showing others kindness made them feel better, and 90% said receiving an act of kindness made them feel better.

Those polled were also asked to reflect on their feelings of anxiety over current events. (The survey took place October 16 to 19—less than two weeks after the attack by Hamas on Israel.) Two-thirds of respondents (67%) reported feeling anxious about international conflict—up 12% from last month’s poll.

“When we are feeling stressed or sad, doing something for others, no matter how small, boosts our mood,” said APA President Petros Levounis, M.D., M.A., in a news release. “Whether it is an innate response that rewards altruistic behavior or a mental reframing that puts positivity in the world, doing something for someone else makes us feel better.”

In the past three months, 93% of respondents did something kind, including 69% who had greeted a stranger, 68% who reported holding a door open for someone, and 65% who had given someone a compliment. Other ways that respondents reported practicing kindness included the following:

  • 39% had checked in on someone who seemed down or depressed.
  • 33% had donated goods to a charitable cause.
  • 24% had donated money to a charitable cause.
  • 19% had given up their seat for someone.
  • 17% had paid for someone else’s tab.
  • 11% had volunteered or participated in a charity event.

Those surveyed also reported on how they have felt in the past when others showed them an act of kindness. Some of the most common feelings included happiness (56%), gratitude (51%), and hope (29%).

“The next time you are in line to pay for food, tell the cashier to take care of the next person’s bill—say ‘I am paying it forward for the person behind me’ and leave. Then, consider what you have just done to make that person’s day and the smile it will bring them,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “Especially now as we enter the holiday season, and especially as we encounter so many disturbing horrific events in the news, little gestures become meaningful in bolstering us in the day-to-day.”

The poll also asked respondents to reflect on what they are most grateful about as another holiday season begins. Most answered their family (70%), their partner (33%), their home (32%), and their physical health (31%).

(Image: iStock/melitas)

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