When you live with chronic pain, often it can feel difficult to survive the day, let alone put on a smile or think of ways to make other people’s day brighter. But numerous studies have indicated that when a person is kind to others, their brain’s pleasure centers light up in the same way as if the person were receiving the kindness themselves.
This year, February 11 kicks off Random Acts of Kindness Week, which concludes with Random Acts of Kindness Day on February 17 - giving people the option of performing good deeds throughout the week, or simply focusing on one special day.
Numerous studies have found that performing - or even witnessing - acts of kindness produces oxytocin, a hormone responsible for all sorts of positive things in the body, including increased self-esteem and optimism.Kindness also stimulates serotonin production, which increases calm and happiness, and is even said to help heal wounds!
Good deeds don’t have to be expensive or complicated. They can be as simple as offering a genuine compliment to someone you encounter. Offer to shovel the snowy sidewalk of a neighbor. Surprise a coworker with coffee or a treat. Pick up litter, even if it isn’t yours. Let someone go ahead of you in line. Send a care package to a soldier stationed overseas.
Performing acts of kindness also helps chronic pain patients on another level. As many people find themselves unable to maintain full-time jobs or other obligations they once held, their sense of self-worth plummets. Modern society has conditioned us to measure our “value” on what we can provide to the world around us. When someone can no longer contribute in the standard ways that most adults around them do, they become depressed, with a decreased sense of value. But of course, there are a myriad of ways that individuals can affect the world around them, even on the small (but crucial) level of positive interactions with everyone they meet. These random acts of kindness serve as a reminder of that importance.
Even those who are housebound can help make others’ lives brighter. It’s easy enough to take a moment and leave a thoughtful comment on someone’s social media or blog post (and conversely, to take a deep breath and leave the page instead of writing something hurtful or argumentative). Text a friend and let them know you’re thinking of them. If you crochet or knit, make items to donate to a hospital, foster child, animal shelter or other organization. Select a GoFundMe campaign and donate (or simply help publicize the cause).
Of course, no one is suggesting that acts of kindness in any way substitute actual pain management. But as those suffering from chronic pain know all too well, anything that might help is certainly worth a try!