The following article was published in the Culpeper Times on February 14, 2019. The article can also be read online at

It is February after all.  And, while Valentine’s Day gets a lot of attention, it’s another holiday that I encourage you to celebrate… Random Acts of Kindness Day on February 17th.

Beyond a thoughtful gesture that will make someone else’s day a little better, carrying out acts of kindness is good for your health.  Many studies have shown that there are actually emotional and physical benefits to being kind to others.

A study done at UC Berkeley, found that almost half the participants felt stronger and had more energy after helping others.  There were also reports of feeling calmer and more confident. That makes sense because kindness produces serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that increases happiness, is calming and heals wounds.  It sometimes referred to as “the happy hormone.”

Other studies indicate that being kind can boost our immune system, lower blood pressure, slow aging and lengthen our lives.   Regularly practicing acts of kindness is believed to reduce cortisol which is “the stress hormone” and, when high, can cause all sorts of negative health consequences including weight gain, mood changes, tiredness and more.

Do you need further convincing?

If so, this should do it.  When others witness your acts of kindness, it can help lower their blood pressure and improve their heart health.  That’s because watching kindness happen produces oxytocin, “the love hormone,” and oxytocin stimulates the release of nitric acid which expands the blood vessels which, in turn, reduces blood pressure.  And people who see kindness happen are more likely to do something nice for others. They pay it forward.

 Just think – your single act of kindness could start a whole wave of kind acts in Culpeper.

So, where to start?  How about starting with a smile? Beyond brightening someone else’s day, smiling releases endorphins which can improve your mood and make you more relaxed.  And, it’s contagious.

Other ideas include:

Give an unexpected and sincere compliment.

Return a shopping cart at the grocery store.

Write an email or note to someone who has made a difference in your life.

Give the drive-thru worker at your favorite fast food place a small tip.

Thank a police officer, fire fighter or other first responder for keeping us safe.

Tell a young parent that they are doing a good job.

Go out of your way to tell a child why they are special.

Pick up litter

Don’t forget…February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day but why wait.  Start today and make it a habit!