Updated: May 19, 2020
Mental Health Awareness Week begins tomorrow and this year's theme is "kindness". A theme which feels particularly poignant at the moment, as we grapple with the loss of loved ones, ill health or financial insecurity and try to make sense of the seismic shifts that have occurred in our lives. A small gesture of kindness – a nod to a shared sense of humanity – can have a profound effect, reminding us that we're all in this together. No matter who we are, kindness has the capacity to make our lives easier, more rewarding and infinitely richer. But kindness isn't just about helping others as you may think, it also has a surprising effect upon our own wellbeing and physical health.
WHY DOES KINDNESS MATTER?
There's a reason why kindness lies at the heart of every spiritual philosophy. It strengthens relationships, deepens solidarity and develops community, and underpins so many positive human qualities, including compassion, empathy, forgiveness, love, friendship and generosity. Whether you practice kindness towards yourself, others or receive the gift of kindness, it has the power to transform sadness into joy, loneliness into belonging, and despair into hope. Every time you are kind, however insignificant it may seem, it gets passed on; rippling outwards, touching countless people's lives who you may never even have met.
WHY KINDNESS MAKES YOU HAPPIER
As well as making us feel good inside, there are numerous studies which show that kindness actually makes us happier. According to kindness expert, Dr David Hamilton, when we are kind, our brains release natural opiods, which increase the levels of dopamine in the brain. This gives rise to a feeling of pleasure, commonly known as "helper's high" . According to a recent US study, it doesn't matter whether you carry out a kind act for yourself, someone else or simply observe an act of kindness, each has the capacity to boost your happiness. Psychologists measured how people felt after they performed or observed kind acts every day for a week. Participants were randomly assigned to carry out at least one more kind act than usual for someone close to them, a stranger, themselves, or to observe kind acts. Happiness was measured before and after seven days of kindness. The researchers found that levels of happiness improved regardless of whether the participants were kind to themselves, others or just observed a kind act .
And for any of you cynics out there, a study by Sussex University, has shown that being kind even when there's nothing in it for us, activates the same endorphin-releasing reward part of our brains that gets triggered when we perform an act of kindness with an expectation to receive something in return .
KINDNESS IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH
Kindness is also a route to good health and a long life. Studies have shown that it protects our hearts, prevents disease and boosts our immune system.
Kindness helps your heart. Dr Hamilton has reported that practising and witnessing kind acts can help reduce blood pressure by producing oxytocin, the "love hormone". Oxytocin releases nitric acid in our blood vessels which helps to lower blood pressure and in doing so, helps to protect our hearts. An increase in oxytocin has also been shown to help slow the ageing process by reducing levels of free radicals and inflammation in our bodies . Another good reason to hold off the botox.
Kindness helps prevent disease. Researchers at the University of North Carolina placed volunteers in two groups: an intervention group, which practiced loving kindness meditation, and an untreated control group. Those in the intervention group reported an increase in positive emotions, compared to those in the control group, which the researchers linked to an increase in their "vagal tone". The vagus nerve plays an important role in balancing our nervous system - helping to activate our body's ability to "rest and digest". A high vagal tone helps to regulate blood sugar, lower blood pressure and reduces the risk of diabetes, strokes and heart disease .
Kindness boosts your immune system. My favourite research by far is a 1988 Harvard study which found that participants who watched a 50-minute video about Mother Theresa had elevated levels of salivary immunoglobulin-A, which protects us from pathogens in food .
Dear old Mother T, as if helping thousands in India wasn’t enough while she was alive, she’s also giving our immune systems a boost from beyond the grave. Now that’s kindness for you.
KINDNESS MAKES YOU MORE ATTRACTIVE And if you need any further persuasion that kindness is good for you, I'll leave you with this stat - in a study of over 10,000 people from 33 countries, kindness was found to be more attractive than good looks .
Who said nice guys finish last?
JOIN US FOR THE 7 ACTS OF KINDNESS
Starting tomorrow, we're going to be celebrating the theme of kindness by carrying out seven acts of kindness throughout the week.
You'll have 24 hours to complete the challenge!
 http://drdavidhamilton.com/the-5-side-effects-of-kindness-2/  https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-heart-and-science-of-kindness-2019041816447  https://www.positive.news/lifestyle/time-to-be-kind-why-kindness-matters/  http://drdavidhamilton.com/the-5-side-effects-of-kindness-2/  https://www.positive.news/lifestyle/time-to-be-kind-why-kindness-matters/  https://lifelabs.psychologies.co.uk/users/1025-dr-david-r-hamilton/posts/874-the-mother-theresa-effect  https://positivepsychlopedia.com/year-of-happy/the-benefits-of-kindness/