Mental Health

Kindness: An Elixir for Body and Soul Alike

Everyone wants to live as long as they possibly can, and those who put kindness into practice in their day to day lives will definitely do just like that. - www.channongray.com // heythereChannon
Written by Channon Gray

The idea that kindness is important for your soul has been known for a long time. Christians put the collection in every service, Muslims make charity a big part of Ramadan, and both Hindus and Buddhists agree of its Karmic value. Yet only now are scientists and doctors really getting a proper handle on just how beneficial kindness can be to both mental and physical health. It both protects us against the most common mental health maladies and provides massive benefits to several bodily functions. To really understand what kindness can do for you, check out these four tried and tested benefits

Lifespan Extension

Everyone wants to live as long as they possibly can, and those who put kindness into practice in their day to day lives will definitely do just like that. A study from 2013 by the Harvard Medical School found that people who used the Buddhist inspired technique known as ‘Loving Kindness Meditation’ can experience rejuvenation in their genes that can prevent premature aging.

Dr. Christine Carter of the University of Berkley in California referenced one study in her book “Raising Happiness; In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents” that demonstrated how, even if you take factors like physical health, gender, smoking, marital status, and diet out of the equation, people aged 55 or older were 44% less likely to die early if they spent time volunteering for two or more organisations. While the exact cause is unclear, the correlation is obvious. Correlation might not definitively prove causation, but it does suggest further investigation is worthwhile.

Everyday Satisfaction

Having a long life might be something everyone wants, but they will also very much want to feel satisfied and engaged as they travel along the ride. Fortunately, this is a benefit that science very clearly shows comes about when people fit kindness and generous behaviour into their everyday lives. The Women’s Philanthropy Institute found that not only do people feel more generally satisfied and stable in their life the more they give, but they also find that this level of satisfaction correlates strongly with how much a person gives as a percentage of their income.

The scientific reason behind this could be something that is very definitively measurable on a physiological level. Both participating in acts of kindness, and witnessing them in close proximity, can be seen as linked to the so-called “love hormone” of Oxytocin. A very important chemical in our mental makeup, that can help with increases in self-esteem and feelings of optimism and general positivity.

Anti-Anxiety Angle

Anxiety is increasingly diagnosed as a problem that so many different types of people are facing as the modern world applies new and different pressures upon our psyches. Kindness, generosity, and a general approach of goodness to the wider world is apparently a very effective balm against this problem. A study conducted by the University of British Columbia found that people who had been diagnosed with anxiety-related conditions, who then performed at least six specific and distinct acts of kindness in a given week reported an increase in positive moods, better relationship satisfaction, and a decrease in social avoidance.

Part of the reasoning behind this is linked again to the release of Oxytocin, as well as a reduction in the production of Cortisol, the stress-related hormone. Oxytocin causes a dilation of the blood vessels, especially around the heart. This allows the heart to need to pump less and helps protect the body from the worst excesses of the physiological symptoms associated with anxiety. Cortisol also stops the body from being able to properly relax. As kind actions lower the overall levels of Cortisol in the bloodstream, the body is able to power down effectively and recharge.

Leave Depression Dead

Among acute depression’s many different symptoms, one of the worst is the aggressive levels of self-focus that can make it very difficult to break out from your usual ways of thinking. This limits your ability to look into the world from the perspective of others and in turn, can make it difficult to be kind to them. Yet, if you manage to do this, it could be the very thing that finally pulls you out from the worst excesses of depression.

The reasoning behind this is linked to a vital neurotransmitter chemical. Serotonin. This is the chemical that makes it easier for different parts of the brain to interconnect and work in the harmonious direction to bring about the brain’s optimum conditions and overall good mental health. Multiple studies have concluded a strong link between kind actions and the production of serotonin. This is often known as the “helpers high” and regular doses of this can really strengthen the mind, to the point where its whole outlook on the wider world can change direction.

Kindness is a medicine for many of the world’s external problems. A willingness to lend a hand and a desire to make the world better can really leave the whole planet better off. But it is not just outside ourselves that kindness makes a benefit. You need only look inside your own mind and answer this question. When you give someone else that all-important helping hand up, how much better about the world do you feel?

 

 

 

This post is a guest post.

About the author

Channon Gray

I'm Channon and yes, it's spelt wrong, but that is interesting right? I'm 23 years young. I like to write, create art and travel. Cornish bumpkin who studied in London then Cambridge. I'm now a Postgraduate Student, Stationery Addict and all-round Life Enthusiast.

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