Giving, receiving, and even witnessing kindness not only boosts our mood and lowers our stress, but it has even more very specific physical benefits. Most of us are completely unaware of the power of kindness, and the science behind it. Yet it’s truly our shared superpower.
What It Is
Kindness is defined as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate; a kind act.” That encompasses even doing the smallest of things including saying a kind word or holding the door open for someone.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
–Aesop, Greek storyteller
Circle of Benefits
Here’s where it really gets interesting. A study conducted at a factory in Spain amongst the workers found that people who received kindness became happier. However, the people who gave kindness to their fellow workers got the lion’s share of the benefits. Not only did they feel increased happiness, but their satisfaction in their jobs and life in general increased, and they had a decrease in depression. Mom was right. It really is better to give than to receive!
Additionally, the people who received the kindness had increased incidents of passing on that kindness to others. And, those who merely witnessed the kindness were likely to get in on the good vibes by showing kindness themselves towards others. It’s called the ripple effect, and it’s real.
What It Looks Like In the Body
So, exactly what is going on in the body while we’re helping someone pick up the papers they dropped or buying a colleague coffee? A lot of the physical effects stem from the release of what is known as the “love hormone” or “cuddle chemical,” oxytocin.
Oxytocin is an important component of many “feel-good” life experiences such as friendship, trust, mother-infant bonding, love, and sexual arousal. Oxytocin gives us a feeling of wellbeing and satisfaction. It reduces our stress levels.
When kindness is given, received, or witnessed, all parties get that surge of oxytocin. They are, in the moment, bonded. They all feel good.
So, all three people – the giver, the receiver, and the witness – have received a surge of oxytocin. And that new supply of oxytocin, in return, makes them feel more generous towards others and are more likely to show kindness to others. The cycle continues.
According to author Simon Sinek, this cycle is Mother Nature’s way of trying to get us to look after each other. Simon asks, imagine if we all were constantly riding an oxytocin surge. What would happen at work? At home? In our community? In the world?
Not One and Done
But here’s the rub. A single act of kindness won’t carry you through the day, or even through an hour. An oxytocin boost that comes from a single act will last approximately 3-4 minutes. What that means is that we have to keep kindness going in order to continually reap the rewards. It means you can’t just occasionally be kind, you need to make it a practice. It means you need to find numerous ways to be kind.
Luckily, we know that those acts of kindness do not need to be grandiose. Holding the elevator door open for someone, giving a hug, or listening to a colleague who needs a friendly ear won’t cost you anything.
More Quality for More Years
While you’re improving the quality of your life by making kindness a practice, know that you are also increasing your longevity. There are several links between being of service to others and longevity. At 100 Year Lifestyle we’ve been saying for a long time that you not only want to add years to your life, but also life to your years. Studies indicate that people who care for others live longer. There is not only a link between helping people and receiving beneficial health effects, but also between helping and mortality.
The Chiropractic Connection
All in now? It gets even better. Another great way to get that oxytocin boost is to go see your chiropractor. Yes, beyond showing yourself kindness by taking great care of your spine and nervous system, studies have shown that chiropractic adjustments create a significant release of oxytocin. So don’t forget that being kind to yourself counts! Why wait? Make an appointment with your 100 Year Lifestyle chiropractor today!