Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness

In today’s often horrific environment I find myself wondering if kindness is worth the effort. Then I see someone doing something nice for someone else (or for me) and I realize that living in kindness is a personal thing. The joy of doing something kind unexpectedly for someone else is not only good for the person you helped, but for you.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”  ~ Winston Churchill

“It’s not what you gather, but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived.”  ~ Golda Meir

There are a ton of websites out there promoting random acts of kindness, including the Pay It Forward Foundation . Many offer ideas, many share pictures. My favorite is a YouTube video. Click here to watch.Stay with it until the end. The recipient’s reaction is priceless.

The following is an article about 5 lovely side effects you receive when you do something nice for someone who doesn’t expect it. Thank you, Dr. Hamilton, for your permission to use it here. I added the photos.

The 5 Side Effects of Kindness

Published on May 30, 2011 by David R. Hamilton PhD
Retrieved from http://drdavidhamilton.com/the-5-side-effects-of-kindness/ on October 21, 2015.

When we think of side effects the first thing that springs to mind are the side effects of drugs. But who’d have thought that kindness could have side effects too?

Well, it does! And positive ones at that.

1) Kindness Makes us Happier

When we do something kind for someone else, we feel good. On a spiritual level, many people feel that this is because it is the right thing to do and so we’re tapping into something deep and profound inside of us that says, ‘This is who I am.’

This Indianapolis officer bought new boots for a homeless man.

This Indianapolis Police Officer bought a pair of boots for a homeless man.

On a biochemical level, it is believed that the good feeling we get is due to elevated levels of the brain’s natural versions of morphine and heroin, which we know as endogenous opioids. They cause elevated levels of dopamine in the brain and so we get a natural high, often referred to as ‘Helper’s High’.

2) Kindness Gives us Healthier Hearts

Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone, oxytocin, in the brain and throughout the body. Of recent interest is its significant role in the cardiovascular system.

Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure). The key is that acts kindness can produce oxytocin and therefore kindness can be said to be cardioprotective.

3) Kindness Slows Aging

Aging on a biochemical level is a combination of many things, but two culprits that speed the process are Free Radicals and Inflammation, both of which result from making unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Elderly man giving his flip flops to a woman who has no shoes.

Elderly man giving his flip flops to a woman who has no shoes.

But remarkable research now shows that oxytocin (that we produce through emotional warmth) reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and so slows aging at source. Incidentally these two culprits also play a major role in heart disease so this is also another reason why kindness is good for the heart.

There have also been suggestions in the scientific journals of the strong link between compassion and the activity of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve, as well as regulating heart rate, also controls inflammation levels in the body. One study that used the Tibetan Buddhist’s ‘Loving Kindness Compassion’ meditation found that kindness and compassion did, in fact, reduce inflammation in the body, mostly likely due to its effects on the vagus nerve.

4) Kindness Makes for Better Relationships

This is one of the most obvious points. We all know that we like people who show us kindness. This is because kindness reduces the emotional distance between two people and so we feel more ‘bonded’. It’s something that is so strong in us that it’s actually a genetic thing. We are wired for kindness.

Happy co-workers

Happy co-workers

Our evolutionary ancestors had to learn to cooperate with one another. The stronger the emotional bonds within groups, the greater were the chances of survival and so ‘kindness genes’ were etched into the human genome.

So today when we are kind to each other we feel a connection and new relationships are forged, or existing ones strengthened.

5) Kindness is Contagious

When we’re kind we inspire others to be kind and studies show that it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends – to 3-degrees of separation. Just as a pebble creates waves when it is dropped in a pond, so acts of kindness ripple outwards touching others’ lives and inspiring kindness everywhere the wave goes.

One, two, three folks help carry a strangers groceries.

One, two, three folks help carry a strangers groceries.

A recent scientific study reported that than an anonymous 28-year-old person walked into a clinic and donated a kidney. It set off a ‘pay it forward’ type ripple effect where the spouses or other family members of recipients of a kidney donated one of theirs to someone else in need. The ‘domino effect’, as it was called in the New England Journal of Medicine report, spanned the length and breadth of the United States of America, where 10 people received a new kidney as a consequence of that anonymous donor.

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This information and all scientific references can be found in more detail in my books, ‘Why Kindness is Good for You’ (Hay House, 2010) and ‘The Contagious Power of Thinking’ (Hay House, 2011)

Having trouble thinking of something to do for someone that doesn’t cost a ton of money? Check this site.

Here is my random act of kindness for today. Are you a fan of Handel’s “Messiah,” especially the Hallelujah Chorus? If you are watch this YouTube video that first appeared around 2009. Click here if you’d like to watch.  Enjoy your laughter. It too is good for your health.

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