How Paying It Forward May Actually Make You Healthier

The spirit of giving is something you can keep alive throughout the year. You may be familiar with the good feelings giving back often grants you: maybe you volunteer frequently or just enjoy doing small favors for friends to make their day. But did you realize that these acts of kindness may be actually be making you healthier? Besides improving your mental health by boosting feelings of happiness and positivity, performing acts of kindness can benefit your physical health, too. According to this Huffington Post article, “acts of kindness create an emotional warmth, which releases a hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and, therefore, oxytocin is known as a “cardioprotective” hormone. It protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.” Paying it forward also reaps other benefits as well, such as reducing depression, anxiety and improving relationships with others.

While it may seem a bit daunting to figure out how to incorporate more volunteer work and/or donations into our lives, there are very simple ways to pay it forward that don’t require much time (or money) at all. In fact, we’ve put together a list of super simple ways you can pay it forward below (with some acts taking less than 5 minutes and $5). 

Pay for someone’s coffee

Most of us spend more than enough time on line at Dunkin or Starbucks on a daily basis. Next time you’re up to pay, hand the cashier a $5 bill and let her know she can put it towards the person behind you’s order.

Tip a little bit more than usual

While 20% is typical, add in a few extra bucks to your server next time you’re out to dinner. You can even skip dessert or an extra drink to make up the difference. You’ll barely notice, but your server definitely will.

Spend time with someone (even if they’re not your cup of tea)

Have a coworker that always asks you to lunch? Skip finding the excuses, just once, and give her the time of day. We promise it won’t be as bad as you think, and we’re sure she’ll be grateful. And plus, if she finds you awesome enough to go out to lunch with, she can’t be that bad!

Donate used clothes to a shelter

Do a refresh of your wardrobe every 3-6 months, and donate whatever you no longer wear to a shelter in need.

Pay the toll for the person behind you

Save that person some extra bucks and give yourself some good karma, all in one act of kindness.

Send flowers to someone you love

Your friends and family know you love them, but show them some extra love by sending flowers to their office.

Complete a chore for a family member without them asking

Your S.O. always stressed about getting his laundry done? Take one for the team and surprise him with a clean load.

Write a handwritten ‘thank you’ note to someone you appreciate

Handwritten notes may seem antiquated, but they are so much more meaningful than a text. Plus, who doesn’t love getting something in the mail?

Buy a meal for someone in need

Instead of giving a person in need a few dollar bills, grab two lunches from your favorite spot and give one of them to him or her.

Bring in baked goods for your team at work

Pulling some long nights to get a new project out the door on the time? Surprise your team by bringing in a treat the next day. They’ll appreciate how much you appreciate them.


Stephanie Limiti is a born and raised New Yorker living out her dreams of palm trees and sunshine in Los Angeles. When she's not zenned out in yoga class, she's reading biographies and volunteering at dog rescue shelter. Follow her on Instagram.