Kindness as a Stress Reduction-Health Promotion Intervention: A Review of the Psychobiology of Caring

Am J Lifestyle Med. 2021 Jan 29;16(1):89-100. doi: 10.1177/1559827620988268. eCollection 2022 Jan-Feb.


Chronic stress is a ubiquitous problem shouldered by many people worldwide. Although the stressors are myriad (eg, loneliness, finances, health, discrimination), the corporal response to them either causes or exacerbates mental and physical illness, including depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular disease. Identifying efficient ways to help people buffer their response and promote resilience and wellness is critical to improving overall health. Positive interpersonal connection is a proven way to promote resilience and happiness. It is associated with decreased mortality and markers of better health. Kindness and caring are prosocial behaviors that build positive interpersonal connections and can uplift both the giver and receiver. Simply seeing kindness and caring activates the neuropsychology of kindness, elevating the viewer and promoting generosity, interpersonal connection, and inclusion. That augmenting positive emotions, enhancing interpersonal connection, and inducing prosocial behavior change are possible through seeing kindness opens the opportunity to bolster resilience in higher stress settings like health care. In a recent study, watching kindness media in a health care setting rapidly increased self-reported feelings of happiness, calm, gratitude, and being inspired. Viewers were significantly more generous. Providing staff and patients with a nonjudgmental lift to enhance caring interactions through kindnesses media can be an important, low-cost adjunct to improving the healthcare environment.

Keywords: altruism; health; imagery; kindness; media psychology; prosocial; stress; wellness.

Publication types

  • Review