Heart in Hands

7 Health Benefits of Being Kind

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Heart in HandsThis article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

Showing kindness is a win-win situation for both parties involved. In fact, it’s likely that the giver benefits even more than the receiver because performing benevolent acts produces a bonanza of positive health effects.

Here is what happens to your body when you are nice to someone.

You Feel Happier

Doing something kind makes you feel good inside because it raises levels of endogenous opioids, which are brain chemicals that act similar to heroin and morphine. They elevate dopamine in the brain, an action that results in a mood called “helper’s high,” a feeling of euphoria similar to that experienced after intense exercise.

Kindness also relieves depression through boosting the production of serotonin, a neurochemical with a calming, anti-anxiety effect. It lifts mood because it operates as a pathway of pleasure in the brain. Most antidepressants act by increasing serotonin, but they have multiple side effects.

You Get a Healthier Heart

Acts of kindness often generate emotional warmth, which raises the level of the hormone oxytocin in the brain and throughout the body. The hormone stimulates the release of nitric oxide in the blood vessels, an effect that dilates them and reduces blood pressure. Because of this action, oxytocin is considered cardio-protective.

Your Aging Process Slows

Oxytocin also decreases inflammation and free radicals, two factors that contribute to aging. In addition, research suggests compassion increases the activity of the vagus nerve, which helps control inflammation.

You Will Have Less Pain and a Lower Death Risk

In a 2010 article in Psychology Today titled “What We Get When We Give,” Christine Cater, Ph.D., said, “People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. 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.”

You Will Have Better Relationships

Kindness fosters bonding between people, thus leading to better relationships. It facilitates the development of new ones and strengthens existing ones.

You Inspire Others to be Kind

When you do a good deed, you inspire others to be kind. In 2014, a customer at a drive-through Starbucks window paid for the coffee of the person in the car behind her. This started a “pay it forward” chain of 378 people who volunteered to pay for the drinks and food of the next customer.

Your Immune System Will Function Better

Kindness strengthens the immune system, and interestingly, it even improves the immunity of people who merely observe it in action. Researchers at Harvard University showed a film to students about Mother Theresa’s work among the poor of India. Afterwards, they measured the saliva level of immunoglobulin, an antibody that plays an important role in immunity. The test revealed a marked rise in the antibody in all the students.

How to Show Kindness to Others

In summary, performing benevolent acts regularly is profoundly healthful, as studies show it relieves insomnia, chronic pain and stress as well as increases optimism and self-worth.

Here are some suggestions on how to show kindness to others.

  • Volunteer for charity work
  • Donate blood
  • Cheer up someone with an unexpected small gift
  • Look for ways to give sincere compliments
  • Pray for the person behind you at the drive-through — and maybe pay for their meal.
  • Send a card or flowers to someone going through a difficult time.
  • Smile at strangers.
  • Bake some cookies or buy a dozen donuts and take them to a firehouse.
  • Help an elderly person by bringing them a home-cooked meal or offering to do yardwork.
  • Write notes of love to your spouse or children.
  • Offer to babysit a friend’s child to give the parent a much needed break.

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