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As writer Mark Twain once so eloquently described, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see”. Kindness is experienced and appreciated by everyone, and with World Kindness Day occurring just a few days ago, the subject of kindness and its impact on both the individual level as well as the wider community has come to the fore. While it’s true that being kind and receiving kindness can immediately put a smile on our faces, does this help us in some way? Are there any added benefits to kindness? Can kindness actually improve your health and wellbeing?
Providing Kindness to Others
According to an article published by the BBC, scientists and academics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) studied from a psychological and biological perspective, what it means to be kind and why it is important. In their research into how kindness can improve mood, they found that there are therapeutic benefits to engaging in kindness and thinking about how you can be kind to those around you. They discovered this can actually lower your blood pressure and has benefits for treating depression and anxiety. Kindness is contagious, the positive effects are spread to all who witness acts of kindness – meaning your one small good deed in a busy area, can make a significant impact!
Kindness has been found to stimulate the production of oxytocin and serotonin in the body. Oxytocin is a hormone that increases our self-esteem, optimism and is good for overall heart health, while serotonin is a feel-good chemical that keeps you calm, happy and helps to heal wounds. Research has also shown that compared to the average population, consistently kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age at a slower rate!
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Receiving Kindness From Others
Both providing kindness and receiving kindness are good for you. According to Columbia University doctor Kelli Harding, “In medicine, the technology may be getting better but you can never replicate the kindness of a supportive caregiver."She reports that kindness improves life expectancy as well as quality of life, as it helps the immune system and blood pressure. She says “It's pretty amazing because there's an ample supply and you can't overdose on it. There's a free supply. It's right there."
Dr Ritchie Davidson at the University of Wisconsin has also studied the health benefits of kindness and found that it is ‘teachable’, in the sense that similar to weight training at the gym, we can build up our compassion ‘muscle’ and respond with care to people who are suffering.
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