What if the cure for your cold was opening a door for a complete stranger? Or watering your neighbor’s roses while they are away on vacation when you notice them wilting? How about stopping your headache by putting some spare change in someone’s parking meter when it is about to expire? Or, reversing inflammatory joint pain by letting someone cut in front of you in traffic without getting miffed? These are not just Pollyanna wishes for curing mental and physical ailments. Science abounds with proof that kindness cures, an even makes us smarter.
Though there are opponents to the ‘smile-or-die’ phenomenon, but many studies actually provide sound evidence that kindness, and thereby, happiness, make you healthier.
In fact, a Department of Psychology Tohoku Gakuin University study found that happy people become happier by being kind. In their study of two groups of people, one of 175 undergraduate students, and another of more than a hundred women, results showed that:
(a) Happy people scored higher on their motivation to perform, and their recognition and enactment of kind behaviors.
(b) Happy people have more happy memories in daily life in terms of both quantity and quality.
(c) Subjective happiness was increased simply by counting one’s own acts of kindness for one week.
(d) Happy people became more kind and grateful through the counting kindnesses intervention.
If anything, it may be as simple as a self-perpetuating feed-back loop. Kindness has its own rewards, and then there are practices that inspire us to be more thoughtful, too.
Meditation, and other mindfulness exercises make us more calm, which makes us more caring toward others, by removing the ‘me-me-me’ dis-ease, and this allows greater cognitive function and physical stamina because we aren’t tossing our energy like water from a bailing ship, and depleting our vital natural resources for immunity, memory, calmness, and even pure physical strength – what could be more powerful than just sitting with emotions, and not reacting to them? Or just physically sitting still for hours on end in the same position without wilting?
Allan Luks, former executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of Health and executive director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of New York City has also found that kindness pays off. He says that helping others, in fact, translates to good health. He and Peggy Payne, a fellow researcher have found that being kind can reduce stomach acid, ease pain – from backaches to headaches, increase energy levels, and possibly even lower blood pressure.
One of Luks’ studies involving a survey of 3000 people from various age and lifestyle demographics found that people fell a rush of euphoria after committing an act of kindness, followed by what he calls a ‘helper’s high.’ And a release of endorphins in the brain that support a long-lasting feeling of well being.
Not only this, but kindness can help cure depression, and allow people a sense of social connection that is often only virtual in this world.
More evidence comes out of a ten-year study of the physical, health and social activities of 2700 men in Tecumseh, Michigan. This study found that those who did regular volunteer work had death rates two and one-half times lower than those who didn’t volunteer, and in recent studies at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, researchers found that improved mental health was more closely linked to giving help than to receiving it.
More studies like these seem to come out in peer-reviewed journals almost every month.
If enough kindness is practiced, even the complete dissolution of physical pain can occur, and more importantly, it can set off a chain reaction that affects others you don’t even know. Starting a chain reaction of kindness has to cause a HUGE amount of euphoria! Want to start one? Here’s how:
- Smile at someone – anyone, for no reason.
- Put your phone away and do a two-minute meditation surrounding everyone you know in a circle of peace and love.
- Leave your waiter or waitress the biggest tip you can possibly afford.
- Recycle your old jeans and practice kindness to the planet.
- Do a load of laundry for a friend who just had a baby.
- Send a Facebook message to two people and genuinely thank them for changing your life in a positive way.
- Give someone a hug. We all need at least 8 a day.
- Donate your old eyeglasses so someone can see again.
- Volunteer to read to children or sit and talk with old folks at a retirement home.
- Instead of gossiping about other’s faults, be the one to say something nice about someone who is picked on.
- Buy someone coffee behind you in line at Starbucks, or better yet, brew some and give it away with a sign that says, “I don’t use GM rBGH milk in my coffee.”
About the Author:
Christina Sarich is a writer, musician, yogi, and humanitarian with an expansive repertoire. Her thousands of articles can be found all over the Internet, and her insights also appear in magazines as diverse as Weston A. Price, Nexus, Atlantis Rising, and the Cuyamungue Institute, among others. She was recently a featured author in the Journal, “Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and Healing Arts,” and her commentary on healing, ascension, and human potential inform a large body of the alternative news lexicon. She has been invited to appear on numerous radio shows, including Health Conspiracy Radio, Dr. Gregory Smith’s Show, and dozens more. The second edition of her book, Pharma Sutra, will be released soon.
– Luks, A., Payne, P (1991). The Healing Power of Doing help us to bond with others.
– D. Jezova, and M. Ondrejcakova of the Institute of Experimental Endocrinology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, life.