Most of us have dealt with some form of anxiety in our lives, but for those who have generalized anxiety disorder, this unpleasant emotion is a near-constant part of life. However, research suggests that something as simple as being kind can relieve some of the stress of anxiety. If that isn’t enough motivation for you to be nice to your neighbor, science suggests kindness’ affect on our mental and physical health stretch further than just anxiety relief.

According to a 2015 study, performing acts of kindness can help individuals with social anxiety feel more comfortable in social interactions by raising their self esteem and helping them to calm their worries of rejection, PsyBlog reported. These acts of kindness can be as simple as offering a nice compliment or doing a roommate's’ dishes.

"Acts of kindness may help to counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person's social environment,” explained Jennifer Trew, one of the authors of the study, as reported by Inc. “It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations.”

Being kind can not only relieve social anxiety, it may be able to lighten your overall mood. When we do an act of kindness our brain releases a hormone known as oxytocin, or the “love hormone," and a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Together, these cause an overall feeling of happiness and contentment.

“People who engage in kind acts become happier over time,” Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside told The Huffington Post. “When you are kind to others, you feel good as a person — more moral, optimistic, and positive.”

Oxytocin released after kind behavior not only has an affect on our mood, it has a positive effect on our heart. This is because oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, The Huffington Post reported.

Source: Trew JL, Alden LE. Kindness reduces avoidance goals in socially anxious individuals. Motivation and Emotion . 2015

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