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3 Health Benefits Of Being Nice, According To Science

Photographed by Katie McCurdy.
No one goes through life trying to be a horrible person. But sometimes, it's a challenge to go that extra mile (or even just a few steps) out of your way to be nice and help other people. The good news is that being kind to others has benefits for you, too — and you don't even have to perform any gigantic acts of selflessness to get them (basic politeness is plenty). Ahead, we cover three science-backed benefits you'll get from helping out your fellow humans.

1. You'll turn down the effects of stress.
A study published last year in the journal Clinical Psychological Science surveyed 77 people about the small acts of kindness they did for other people — holding doors open, giving directions, etc. — and the stresses they dealt with in their own lives. Results showed that on days when participants felt especially stressed, they understandably had more negative feelings about their lives. But if they also helped others out on those stressful days, they didn't report those negative feelings.

Plus, other research suggests these benefits extend to the toll stress takes on your body. For instance, a 2010 study looked at the effects of compassion-based meditation on 61 participants' physiological responses to stress. Those who went through six weeks of compassion meditation training actually showed improved markers of immune health compared to control participants.

2. You'll feel better about your life.
Making others happy is also associated with your own happiness. In a series of experiments, researchers at Harvard Business School found that spending money on others in particular can make us feel better, too. For instance, in one experiment, participants were randomly assigned to spend a small sum of money on a gift for themselves, someone else, or charity. Results showed that those who spent their money on others — regardless of the amount they were spending — rated their levels of happiness higher than those who bought stuff for themselves.

3. Your heart will work better.
Being nice can improve your physical health, too. Several studies have now shown an association between acts of kindness and markers of heart health. For instance, a 2006 study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology found that those who provide support to their social networks have better self-esteem, less depression, and even better blood pressure.