What is kindness and why is it so important?
Is kindness only something we are able to show to others?
How does kindness lead to a healthier life?
How does kindness make you feel more fulfilled and satisfied with life?
Acts of kindness can release hormones that contribute to your mood and overall well-being. In fact it is so effective that it is formally incorporated in some types of Psycotherapy such as Compassion Focused Therapy.
Kindness is a choice and the more conditioned we are to respond to kindness, accept kindness and give kindness, the more natural it becomes.
Being kind not only benefits the recipient of kindness but the person who gives the kindness gains something positive too.
Kindness includes being kind to yourself.
Do you treat yourself kindly?
Do you speak gently and kindly to yourself?
Do you take care of yourself?
Oscar Wilde Wrote “To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance”
and yet every day I work with people who feel unable to love themselves for one reason or another.
When we talk about kindness we usually talk about kindness towards others, but the place we need to start with kindness is kindness to ourselves.
Self -compassion involves treating yourself as you would your best friend. Be more understanding of yourself, be more gentle with yourself, understand that we all make mistakes.
Do you talk to yourself like a friend or are you always critical of yourself?
There is a wealth of research that shows positive consequences for self-compassion on our general well being, including a greater satisfaction with life, better connections with others, happiness and optimism.
Self -compassionate people are less likely to have anxiety, depression, fear of failure and perfectionism. (Neff 2009)
Acts of kindness in general help us to demonstrate a positive identity that can make us proud of ourselves, incorporating the smallest acts of kindness into your daily life will help you in many beneficial ways, boosting your physical health,improving personal relationships,increasing your happiness, and slowing down the ageing process.
The Love Hormone Oxytocin
Most research on the science behind why kindness makes us feel better centres around the hormone Oxytocin, known as our love hormone.
Oxytocin is the hormone that is released when a mother breastfeeds her baby cementing the special bond they have. It is also released when we are physically intimate with others and helps builds social bonds and trust of others
Acts of kindness can also give Oxytocin a boost, being kind to someone might just open the door to a new friendship, develop connections with others and increase trust.
Oxytocin is also known as our Cardio-protective hormone, because release of Oxytocin lowers our blood pressure and improves overall heart health reducing our risk of heart disease.
Repeated Kindness has long lasting effects
Kindness can release another hormone called Dopamine which is also known as our Happy Hormone. It is the hormone that gives us that feeling of euphoria when good things happen.
One simple act of kindness can reward us with a boost of dopamine, however the effect isn't long lasting, but by repeating acts of kindness you will keep boosting your happy hormone and your love hormone.
Kindness is Contagious
The positive acts of kindness are not only experienced by the giver and the receiver of the kind act, but by everyone who witnesses that kind act.
The receptors in the brain of the person witnessing the act respond in the same way as the person receiving the act, our brain can't tell the difference between an act being performed for someone else of ourselves
When being kind to someone you are most likely causing them to smile and if you see a smile those receptors in your brain respond as if you are feeling that emotion yourself.
That feel good factor is then passed on like a ripple effect.
Kindness increases your life span
People who volunteer regularly are reported to have less aches and pains. Apparently giving help to others protects our overall health twice as much as Asprin protects against heart disease.
In a study people 55 and older who volunteered for two of more organisations had an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, even after all other contributing health factors were taken into consideration.
That's more effective than exercising 4 times a week apparently!!
Kindness decreases various physical & mental conditions
PAIN -The Endorphines that kindness produces is the brains natural painkiller
STRESS - Perpetually kind people have lower levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone, high levels of cortisol can speed up your ageing process and cause a number of physical conditions.
BLOOD PRESSURE - The Oxytocin that is released causes a release of nitric acid which dilates the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure. Oxytocin is known as the Cardio-protective hormone as lower blood pressure protects the heart.
It is said you are at greater risk of heart disease if you don't have a strong network of family or friends, When you are kind to others you develop strong and meaningful relationships and friendships.
DEPRESSION - when we are kind to others life satisfaction, self-realisation and physical health are improved leading to reduced depression and increased well-being and good fortune.
ANXIETY- A group of highly anxious individuals, in a study by University of British Columbia, performed at least 6 acts of kindness a week. After 1 month there was a significant increase in positive mood, relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance in those with social anxiety.
SWITCHING OFF YOUR THREAT SYSTEM (Fight or Flight) - Researchers from Exeter and Oxford University discovered that when you actively practice self-compassion it can calm and slow down your heart rate leading to switching off your threat system, putting your body into a state of safety and relaxation which is important for regeneration and healing.
Kindness to others, to yourself and witnessing acts of kindness have a multitude of benefits.
Laura Knight Dip Couns MBACP is an experienced and qualified counsellor and CBT Therapist who runs her own private practice SeeClear Counselling in Poole Dorset,
She is an Anxiety UK Approved Therapist and specialises in working with anxiety and panic attacks, helping adults find ways to lead a calmer and more content life.
Laura can offer Face to Face, telephone and video counselling, and during the Corona
Virus crisis is offering a number of discounted counselling sessions.