6 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Kindness
[Apr. 10, 2021: Josh Shavit]
Many people are talking about the ripple effect — how one action can spread results. One of the most positive ways to use the ripple effect is to disperse a drop of kindness into your world. By spreading kindness, you can create a profound effect not only on the emotional wellbeing of you and your loved ones, but also on their physical wellbeing as well, say scientists.
That warm glow you feel after helping someone is a real thing according to studies. Researchers at the University of Sussex, England, found a physiological response in brains scanned by MRI’s while they were making kind decisions. They found that areas of the brain literally lit up with bonus oxygen when they helped someone out, either for hopes of a reward, called “strategic kindness,” or just because they could, called “altruistic kindness.”
“We found some regions in the brain that were more active during altruistic, rather than strategic, generosity so it seems there is something special about situations where our only motivation to give to others is to feel good about being kind,” said Jo Cutler, Ph.D., a student who co-authored the study.
According to Quiet Revolution, science shows that as children we are biologically wired to be kind and we can develop this trait with practice and repetition. The payoff is not only achieving that ripple effect for those around you, but also in improving your health.
Here are six ways being kind can enhance your wellbeing:
Being kind releases feel-good hormones. It boosts your serotonin levels which increase feelings of satisfaction and well-being, according to Quiet Revolution. It also releases oxytocin, the “love hormone,” according to Cedars Sinai. It is the hormone that helps us form social bonds and is released when we are physically intimate. Oxytocin also helps lower blood pressure and can support cardiovascular health.
It Increases lifespan. According to author and researcher Christine Carter, Ph.D.: “People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pain. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People who are 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying earlier. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.”
Kindness creates more energy. Carter, a sociologist, and senior fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, says that half the participants in one study reported they felt stronger and more energetic after helping others. “Many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed,” she said.
Being kind lowers anxiety. A University of British Columbia study on happiness found that a group of highly anxious people who performed at least six acts of kindness each week for a month showed significant improvement in positive moods, relationship satisfaction, and social avoidance over the four weeks of the study.
Kindness prevents illness. Inflammation in the body is responsible for all sorts of illnesses. According to Quiet Revolution, a study of adults aged 57 to 85 found that “volunteering manifested the strongest association with lower levels of inflammation.”
Kindness is contagious. The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnesses the act. This, in turn, improves their mood making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward.”
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