Monday, November 13, 2017, is World Kindness Day. Being kind does more than make people feel good — there are a number of additional benefits and side effects to kindness that range from increased happiness to slowing the aging process.
With that in mind, let’s explore the healthy side effects of kindness. After reading, you’ll be inspired to play a role in making the world a kinder place, so don’t forget to share these interesting insights with your friends and family!
According to Random Acts of Kindness, “Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, occasionally referred to as the ‘love hormone’ which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart-health.”
If merely witnessing acts of kindness can do all of that for your health, imagine the benefits of being the person who doles out kindness to others.
In her book Raising Happiness; In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, Christine Carter writes, “Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after eliminating every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.”
Of course, you should still exercise, eat right, avoid tobacco, and make other healthy lifestyle choices. Adding mindful, practiced kindness into your healthy living mix certainly won’t hurt, though.
In his book, The Five Side Effects of Kindness, David R. Hamilton, PhD, details how kindness makes us happier, and not just from a feel-good perspective.
He explains this concept succinctly on his blog, writing, “On a biochemical level, it is believed that the good feeling we get is due to elevated levels of the brain’s natural versions of morphine and heroin, which we know as endogenous opioids. They cause elevated levels of dopamine in the brain and so we get a natural high, often referred to as ‘Helper’s High’.”
Did you know that kindness is contagious and that it can be taught? Richard Davidson, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin explains this concept using a relatable analogy: “It’s kind of like weight training, we found that people can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help.”
This is one of the reasons kindness is both contagious and teachable. When you witness kindness, you too want to be kind. As you experience and practice kindness more frequently those “muscles” grow. While you’re being kind, others (like your children) are also witnessing these acts and are more likely to act with kindness. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that makes everyone happier, healthier, and more connected.