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Health & Wellness

The Health Benefits of Being Kind

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Most of us would agree that kindness is a virtue.

Looking out for others, sometimes putting their needs or comfort before our own is a nice and decent way to move through the world.

“Being generous and giving has some very powerful benefits,” says Stephen G. Post, Ph.D., director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York. “Helping others in meaningful ways generally results in a happier, healthier, resilient and even longer life for the giver.”

Here’s a look at some recent research on why it may also be good for your health to be kind:

Even a small act of kindness may help decrease the effects of stress. According to a study review published in Science Daily, taking part in helping behaviors like opening doors for people or providing directions, may buffer the negative impact of stress. In other words, engaging in random acts of kindness may help mitigate negative feelings and bolster positive ones. [1]

Volunteering may lower the risk of developing high blood pressure in older adults. Authors of a study published in Psychology and Aging stated that people who volunteer 200 or more hours per year were less likely to develop hypertension over a 4-year follow-up than non-volunteers. [2] Dr. Post says it’s likely the combination of being both physically active and altruistic that led to this difference.

Volunteering may help you live a longer, healthier life, if you do it for the right reasons. “You want to use your time and your resources in a way that’s meaningful to you,” Post says. “If your volunteer activity doesn’t float your boat and you don’t believe in your actions, you’ll be less likely to continue and less likely to get a health boost from it.”

Kindness may be good for the heart. Biological chemist David R. Hamilton, PhD, author of The Five Side Effects of Kindness, explains that the emotional warmth associated with kindness may lead to a release of oxytocin—the so-called “love hormone.” That, in turn, reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation, two “culprits,” as he calls them, that may play a role in heart disease. [3]

What good deed have you done lately? Share your story below.

References:

[1] Helping Others Dampens Effects of Everyday Stress. Science Daily. Dec. 14, 2015

[2] A Prospective Study of Volunteers and Hypertension Risk in Older Adults, R. Sneed, H. Cohen, Psychology and Aging. Psychol Aging. 2013 Jun; 28(2): 578–586.

[3] The 5 Side Effects of Kindness, David R. Hamilton.

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