A few weeks ago, our blog talked about how having a negative mindset can affect our physical health in a negative way. This week we’re going to flip the coin and talk about how being kind can have a positive effect on your health. Kindness is one of the most overlooked things we can do to stay healthy. Not only that, researchers are now finding that it can prolong our lives as well. A new study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has recently found that kindness may help slow the effects of aging. While this study is not conclusive, it makes sense. If negative emotions affect us negatively, positive emotions should affect us positively. In this study, 150 middle aged volunteers were separated into three groups. One group did mindfulness meditation training, the second group learned about loving kindness meditation, and the third group served as the control group. The researchers measured each volunteers’ telomeres (caps on the end of your chromosomes that protect your DNA) at the beginning and end of the study. As we grow older, our telomeres get shorter. The shorter they get the shorter your life expectancy is, so they are a good marker for longevity. At the end of the experiment all three groups had shorter telomeres, but the group that had practiced loving kindness had less shortening than the other two groups. The control group’s telomeres were the shortest. The researchers concluded that practicing kindness for just a few weeks slowed aging slightly, prompting hopefulness that we can slow our own aging process by doing the same thing in our daily lives. Practicing kindness can be rewarding in many ways:
- Kindness releases endorphins in our brain which help alleviate pain.
- People who practice kindness age slower and have less stress than average.
- Kindness improves mood and helps with depression and anxiety. It stimulates the production of serotonin, which heals, calms and increases happiness.
- Kindness also releases oxytocin, which aides in the release of nitric oxide which dilates blood vessels to reduce blood pressure.
- Kindness stimulates dopamine in the brain causing your pleasure centers to light up.
- Practicing kindness improves our self-esteem.
- Being kind to others helps people bond.