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I find that when I’m actively involved in another person’s needs, it distracts me from fear for my health, worry about the future, or any other troubling or disheartening thoughts.
Perhaps you’ve found this to be true, too. Well, we can all take heart in the fact that science backs this feeling with concrete evidence.
For those of us who already practice kindness to others as a way to take our minds off our own troubles, the proof is in the doing.
But in case you want some scientific evidence to back it up, well, here are several ways the science shows your health benefits from random acts of kindness…
Evolution has wired us for kindness
Dr. Tristen Inagaki, a neuroscientist at San Diego State University, is not at all surprised that kindness and altruism have a direct impact on our physical well-being.
“Humans are extremely social, we have better health when we are interconnected, and part of being interconnected is giving,” she says.
Dr. Inagaki has found that the more connectivity there is in a person’s dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC), the brain region that connects cognitive control with emotion, the more emotionally rewarding we find being kind to others, and the more likely we are to continue that behavior.
This is true not just for ongoing acts of kindness, like volunteering, but for “random acts of kindness” like checking in on an elderly neighbor, for example, or calling a friend who has been feeling down.
Kindness is good for our health
Research has identified specific health benefits that come with thinking of others and helping them.
Recently a study of 122 people with depression or anxiety symptoms found that those who began fitting small acts of kindness into their day experienced an improvement in their symptoms.
In fact, practicing kind acts worked better than techniques used in “talk therapy.”
“When you have these symptoms, you can become preoccupied with your own suffering — understandably,” said David Cregg, one of the researchers on the study.
But acts of kindness improved interconnectedness and broke the cycle of rumination — that’s when a person continually worries about something specific.
One reason that may happen is that when we act kindly, or even when we think about times we’ve been kind, it reduces activity in our amygdala — our brain’s fear center.
However, the mental health benefits of kindness are just the tip of the iceberg. Here are four more..
Physical benefits of acts of kindness
Less pain. Studies have found that donating blood appears to hurt less than having your blood drawn for a test, even when the needle may be twice as thick when donating blood.
Better blood pressure. Donating to a good cause has been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve heart health. In fact, this study showed the effects were as big as from following a healthy diet and exercise over a 6-week period.
Longer life. Grandparents who regularly babysit their grandchildren have a mortality risk that is up to 37 percent lower than those who don’t provide such childcare. That’s a larger effect than may be achieved from regular exercise, according to one meta-analysis of studies
Not a grandparent? No worries. Studies show that volunteering correlates with a 24 percent lower risk of early death — about the same as eating six or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Less inflammation. Adolescents who volunteer their time have been found to have lower levels of two markers of inflammation — interleukin 6 and C-reactive protein.
At least one study has shown that high IL-6 levels are also a good predictor of more severe COVID-19 infections — yet another reason to keep inflammation under control.
So, no matter how you do it, the bottom line is that you’ll become stronger and healthier through kindness, and you’re likely to live longer to enjoy the benefits of better health.
Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!
Why being kind to others is good for your health — BBCFuture
Individual differences in resting-state connectivity and giving social support: implications for health — Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Caregiving within and beyond the family is associated with lower mortality for the caregiver: A prospective study — Evolution and Human Behavior
Moral Transformation: Good and Evil Turn the Weak Into the Mighty — Social Psychological and Personality Science