Have you ever experienced the feeling of well-being or satisfaction after helping another person? It turns out this isn't simply an emotional response. Studies show that acts of service can actually benefit our overall health! And, what could be better? Getting healthier while helping others? It's a great partnership!
At the Cedars Sinai medical facility in California, researchers are studying the science of kindness. In fact, the evidence clearly shows that those who practice gratitude, as well as regular acts of kindness, generally have greater feelings of contentment, overall well-being and a positive mood.
Why? Well, the answer is entirely chemical. Our bodies release a hormone called oxytocin (known as the “love” hormone) as well as dopamine when we engage in random acts of kindness. But, just one or two acts isn’t enough to sustain that hormone long-term. These acts need to be performed regularly to reap the greatest benefit. This practice is so powerful that it is even being utilized to treat anxiety, pain and depression. When we change the state of our hearts we are poised to create positive change around us with the happy result of also creating joy in our own lives.
What we have discovered about these results is being evaluated to see how they can be used to help with certain health conditions. Here are just a few of the ways.
- The hormone oxytocin is a protein and is being studied to see if it can be used as an injection or nasal spray to help treat certain health conditions.
- Keeping a log of gratitude and acts of kindness as well as practicing mindfulness meditation are great ways to be intentional about practicing kindness in your daily routine. Mindfulness-based therapy is becoming more popular as a way to help treat depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions.
- There is another endorphin-like chemical that has been discovered called “substance P,” which is increased when helping others. Amazingly it has been shown to help relieve pain and researchers are trying to see how to better utilize it.
So, what are ways you can incorporate more kindness and service in your life? The great news is the acts of service don't need to be complicated or time-consuming to realize the health benefits! It can be as simple as helping someone load groceries in their car or returning a cart for someone. It can be as easy as a smile or holding the door for someone. Improve your health today by finding a few ways to serve!