Kindness is a universal language, which every human on earth can speak and feel. Like Mark Twain once said, kindness is something that both the blind can see and the deaf can hear: a language that breaks all foreign barriers and can be heard and spoken through every religion, culture and race.
But not only does kindness spark warmth in the heart of others, but so too within the heart of the giver.
De-stress by giving
In a study published in Clinical Psychological Science, researchers found that kindness to others helps relieve stress. The study ran by Emily Ansell of the Yale University School of Medicine, involving 77 people between 18 and 44, highlighted the benefits of helping others. The researchers saw a correlation between positive emotions and acts of kindness. Those doing more acts of kindness in the day were less likely to feel negative emotions. Participants also had an easier time maintaining the positive emotions when continuing random acts of kindness. In contrast, on days participants did not add a daily dose of kindness they saw a drop in their positive emotions and a rise in their stress levels.
Oxytocin the “love hormone”
Not only do kind people produce 23 per cent less cortisol (the stress hormone), they age slower than others. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation notes that those who are perpetually kind age two times slower than those who are not. Oxytocin, which has been dubbed the “love hormone”, has also been linked to kindness. This chemical has many positive effects influencing social behaviour, emotion, as well as physical benefits on the intestines, according to Medical News Today. Dr. David R Hamilton, an author and writer for the Huffington Post, says oxytocin is also linked to lowering blood pressure. In a four-week trial at the University of British Columbia, scientists found that oxytocin helps to reduce social anxiety. Releasing into cognitive, social and emotional areas of the brain, oxytocin can aid in well-being, and relationship development. “Oxytocin (OT) is of potential use in enhancing interpersonal and individual well-being, and might have more applications in neuropsychiatric disorders especially those characterized by persistent fear, repetitive behavior, reduced trust and avoidance of social interactions,” Los Angeles based Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, concluded in their report called “Oxytocin role in enhancing well-being: a literature review”. This natural hormone is being studied for helping anxiety patients and those with autism.
The domino effect
After witnessing or participating in random acts of kindness, you feel a natural high. This high has been coined by researchers such as Psychologist Jonathan Haidt as “moral elevation” and actually causes kindness to become contagious. “Moral elevation, or elevation, is a specific emotional state triggered by witnessing displays of profound virtue and moral beauty,” researchers wrote in their report titled “Autonomic and prefrontal events during moral elevation.” Many studies have found that moral elevation creates a domino effect as it promotes optimism, and builds altruism.
Among other things, kindness promotes well-being of the mind, body and soul. So in addition to an apple a day, a daily dose of kindness can also keep the doctor away.