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12th Apr 2024

Giving a compliment is as good for you as exercise

Jody Coffey


I’ll go first: You are amazing

Receiving a compliment is enough to make our day.

On our worst days, it can be a pick-me-up that changes our outlook and gives us a well-needed boost of confidence.

While heartwarming, it turns out that giving a compliment can be just as beneficial for our mental health.

Award-winning psychologist, Dr Lalitaa Suglani says that paying someone a compliment can ‘significantly enhance’ our mental wellbeing.

The gesture, she tells Morale, can improve our self-confidence, our sense of belonging, and our ability to maintain a more positive outlook.

Credit: Getty

The psychologist says the feeling linked with complimenting others can be likened to the sensation of being touched or given a hug.

Much like when exercise releases oxytocin — the ‘love hormone’ — paying a compliment also has the same effect and can make us feel just as good.

“This release is comparable to other oxytocin-releasing activities like physical touch (such as hugging) or on the other side things like engaging in exercise,” Dr Suglani told Morale.

She says that this gesture “exercises the brain’s reward system,” which improves self-confidence.

“Firstly, it boosts your self-esteem as you perceive yourself as someone who positively impacts others.

“This, in turn, triggers feelings of happiness, inner peace, contentment and satisfaction within yourself, activating the brain’s reward centres and releasing pleasurable neurotransmitters like dopamine.”

Paying others a compliment can also strengthen social bonds, both personally and professionally, which leads to deeper connections and reciprocity, she adds.

It can also have a knock-on effect on those witnessing the kind gesture.

“Additionally, engaging in acts of kindness shifts your focus away from negativity, promoting a more positive outlook on life.

“Witnessing the ripple effect of your compliments reinforces your sense of purpose and value, creating a positive and supportive environment for all involved.” 

Credit: Getty

However, many of us tend to clam up or feel awkward when we receive a compliment.

Dr Suglani says this is due to compliments evoking “vulnerability and discomfort,” particularly if we have a hard time accepting positive feedback or are not used to receiving validation.

She adds that some individuals may also feel awkward about giving others compliments.

“One reason is a fear of appearing insincere or overly flattering, which can lead to concerns about authenticity and credibility.

“Some individuals may struggle with low self-esteem or negative self-perceptions, making it challenging to accept praise or believe in their own worthiness.

“Giving compliments may trigger feelings of vulnerability, as individuals may worry about how their words will be perceived or fear rejection or judgement.”

Factors such as cultural norms and social expectations can all play a role in this discomfort around the kind gesture.