Kindness is contagious. The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward.” This means one good deed in a crowded area can create a domino effect and improve the day of dozens of people!
Oxytocin: The Love Hormone
Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, occasionally referred to as the ‘love hormone’ which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart-health. Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we are anxious or shy in a social situation.
“About half of participants in one study reported that they feel stronger and more energetic after helping others; many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth,” says Christine Carter of UC Berkely’s Greater Good Science Center.
A 2010 Harvard Business School survey of happiness in 136 countries found that people who are altruistic—in this case, people who were generous financially, such as with charitable donations—
were happiest overall.
“People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church,” Carter adds.
According to research from Emory University, when you are kind to another person, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up, as if you were the recipient of the good deed—not the giver. This phenomenon is called the “helper’s high.”
Like most medical antidepressants, kindness stimulates the production of serotonin. This feel-
good chemical heals your wounds, calms you down, and makes you happy!
Engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins—the brain’s natural painkiller!
Perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age slower than the average population!
In a University of British Columbia Study, a group of highly anxious individuals performed at least six acts of kindness a week. After one month, there was a significant increase in positive moods, relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance in socially anxious individuals.
Stephen Post of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-
realization and physical health is significantly improved. Mortality is delayed, depression is reduced and wellbeing and good fortune are increased.
Committing acts of kindness lowers blood pressure. When oxytocin is released, it causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and, therefore, oxytocin is known as a “cardioprotective” hormone. It protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.