The benefits associated with giving and receiving kindness are tangible and result in overwhelmingly positive outcomes for the world around us. Science confirms the advantages to the body and mind:
Brain imaging studies indicate that kind, empathetic and compassionate feelings cause physical changes in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This left-hand portion of the brain above the eyes is associated with positive emotion. With practice this area grows just like a muscle grows when we exercise it, having the capacity to ease anxiety and reduce depression thereby improving mood, promoting self-worth and mental health. Acts of kindness generate emotional warmth.
Research has shown that being kind to others activates the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that supports mood stability. The hormone oxytocin that makes you feel connected to other people is produced. Science suggests that the natural ‘helper’s high’ that is felt is due also to elevated levels of dopamine in the brain. The happiness-boosting hormones released when kindness is felt support social relationships, connectivity, inner joy and general wellbeing.
Feelings of thankfulness increase an individual’s sense of self-worth, self-esteem, empathy, compassion and confidence. Engaging in kindness is reported to boost neurotransmitters in the brain that create feelings of well-being and satisfaction. Like exercise, altruism releases endorphins and engaging in random acts of kindness for others boosts serotonin levels.
Being kind is good for your heart and lowers blood pressure! Oxytocin (our brain’s feel-good hormone) causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates blood vessels. Research indicates that perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) than the common population. Kindness can therefore be said to be cardioprotective. More kindness means better heart health, less stress and lower blood pressure!
“Feel-good” chemicals called endorphins can act as pain relievers and happiness boosters. Research indicates that acts of kindness trigger the release of a chemical in the brain called substance P which assists the body in dealing with pain.
Acts of kindness, whether given or received, don’t just feel good; they are also good for the immune system. Research confirms that kindness boosts levels of a vital immune system antibody known as ‘secretory immunoglobulin A’ (s-IgA). It is suggested that this effect can be intensified by simply watching kindness! Therefore, kindness has immune boosting consequences that assist in reducing stress.
Ageing on a biochemical level is a combination of many things including increased inflammation in the body. Inflammation is linked to all kinds of diseases including cancer, diabetes, chronic pain and obesity which can lower an individual’s lifespan. Studies confirm that oxytocin reduces inflammation. Oxytocin in the body is heightened by compassion and emotional warmth therefore kindness promotes longevity.