We have all succumb to the sarcasm and cynicism that surrounds us in the world these days. I know I have been guilty multiple times for being in a cynical, snarky mood. Today, I wanted to remind myself and others that it is important to love yourself and choose kindness each and every day.
Since this is a blog about preventive health, you might be confused wondering why the heck I am talking about being kind when I could be telling you want food to eat to improve your blood pressure… Well young grasshopper, kindness can improve your health and here are 5 ways using science that shows it does!
1. Kindness makes us happier!
Well duh, but stay with me. Whenever I do something nice for someone else, I feel good. If I buy a surprise gift for my little brother, it makes me happy when he is happy. This feeling isn’t magic… it is actually biochemistry!
When you do something kind for someone else, your brain releases more endogenous opioids (essentially your natural version of morphine). These “happy hormones” cause the brain to release more Dopamine so we get a natural high making us feel happier.
2. Kindness can improve heart health
Another hormone produced by the brain after an act of kindness is Oxytocin. Oxytocin acts on the whole body, but has a particular important effects on the heart. Oxytocin causes the release of the chemical Nitric Oxide in the blood vessels, which expands them (dilates them) therefore lowering blood pressure naturally!
3. Kindness slows down aging
Unfortunately I have not found the secret answer to stop father time, but kindness and happy mood has been linked to slowing down the process. Two of the main properties from a biochemical standpoint that increase aging are Free Radicals and Inflammation. While you cannot completely escape those things, living a healthy lifestyle has shown to decrease the harmful effects on the body from both.
But there is more! A recent study displays that Oxytocin (remember our blood pressure lowering friend from above), reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system (heart), which act as another protective measure for heart disease as well as decreases the damaging effects on the whole body, slowing down aging.
Another study looked at Tibetan Buddhist Loving Kindness Meditation and saw that overall inflammation and free radicals were decreased in the body in participants doing the kindness meditation. Although the physiologic mechanism for this decrease is not confirmed, they believe it is due to modulating effects on the vagus nerve (nerve that is linked to regulating heart rate & inflammation levels in the body).
4. Kindness makes better relationships
This makes sense to anyone whether you have a science mind or not! We as humans are drawn to and like people who show us kindness. Kindness is one of the ways you can foster a connection with a new person and two is always better than one. A study showed that lasting, successful relationships came down to 2 things, one of them being kindness!
5. Happiness and kindness are contagious
Have you ever noticed that person that walks into the room and flashes you a smile… what is your reaction? Well most of the time we smile back! Why is that?! They must have mind powers… No, actually it is called the “domino effect” by the New England Journal of Medicine. Some one does a kind act, whether it is smiling at you or buying your coffee and it takes off like a ripple in a lake, growing and expanding to others.
Many of you have probably heard of the “Pay it Forward” movement. If you haven’t, click here, to see some infamous pay it forward movements.
Motivational Monday Challenge!!
Ok folks, here is your challenge for the week! This week, pay it forward. Do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return. Except what they don’t know is that besides practicing kindness you are also improving your health! If you have any unique “Pay it Forward” ideas, take the quiz and write it in!