17 Feb National Random Acts of Kindness Day
The Science of Kindness.
Kindness makes us happier and
more satisfied with life.
Kindness Guru David Hamilton PhD has spent years looking at the effects of kindness and found that when we do something kind for someone else, we feel good.
The science bit: 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’. This is the kinda high we want to promote.
Kindness increases our energy levels and confidence.
Studies show that being kind makes you more energetic and increases our sense of self-worth.
Kindness is good for the heart.
Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone, oxytocin, in the brain and throughout the body.
The science bit: Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure). Acts of kindness can produce oxytocin and therefore kindness can be said to be cardioprotective.
Kindness improves our mood.
Not only does being kind help alleviate our bad mood when we are stressed, it also helps us to experience more positive emotions.
The science bit: Research has shown that doing random acts of kindness triggers the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood stability and oxytocin, a hormone that makes you feel connected to other people. Combined, this has the effect of making you feel loved and emotionally stable when you are frequently kind to others.
Kindness Slows Ageing.
Ageing on a biochemical level is a combination of many things, but two culprits that speed the process are Free Radicals and Inflammation, both of which result from making unhealthy lifestyle choices.
The science bit: Research now shows that oxytocin (that we produce through emotional warmth) reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and so slows ageing at source. Incidentally these two culprits also play a major role in heart disease so this is also another reason why kindness is good for the heart.
Kindness helps reduce the effects of stress.
In the study published in Clinical Psychological Science, researchers found that there is a natural way to help relieve the impact of stress on health, and that is through helping others.
The science bit: Researchers found that people who performed more acts of kindness throughout the day were less likely to report negative emotions. They were also able to maintain their positive emotions. However, during the days in which they were not able to perform kind acts, the participants reported a decrease in positive emotions in response to daily stressors.