“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop
A molecule is a useful collection of atoms. I used to be an organic chemist so I made molecules every day. Even if you don’t know exactly what a molecule is, I’ll bet you’re familiar with many popular ones.
Serotonin is a molecule that’s associated with positive mood. Ascorbic acid is a molecule otherwise known as Vitamin C. There’s caffeine that you find in coffee, morphine that people receive for pain, threobromine in chocolate. You may even have heard of lycopene that we get in tomatoes or allicin from garlic, which is responsible for its antibiotic effects. Sildenafil is a molecule more commonly known as Viagra.
We produce many molecules in the body through our behaviour. Stress, for example, produces cortisol. Cortisol can therefore be said to be a ‘molecule of stress’. Hunger produces grehlin, a molecule that readies the body for eating. Grehlin is known as the ‘hunger hormone’ (a hormone is another name for a particular type of molecule).
There are two ‘molecules of kindness’; that is, molecules that are produced in the body when we’re kind.
The first is oxytocin and the second is nitric oxide.
You may have heard of oxytocin. People call it the ‘love hormone’ or ‘cuddle chemical’ because it’s readily produced in the body when we feel love or when we hug a person or an animal. We produce oxytocin basically any time we’re being genuinely kind.
And I say genuinely for a reason. This is because genuine kindness creates a warm feeling inside and it’s the warm feeling that produces the oxytocin. If it’s not genuine, there’s no oxytocin. It’s like nature’s catch-22. So, what do oxytocin and nitric oxide do?
Studies of cells from our arteries show that oxytocin basically protects the cells from oxidation (or oxidative stress, as scientists prefer to call it) and inflammation. Oxidative stress and inflammation play a big role in heart disease. When there’s not a lot of oxytocin around, there’s typically more oxidative stress and inflammation, but once oxytocin arrives in our arteries the levels come way down. Basically, oxytocin protects the heart. It’s known as a ‘cardio-protective’ molecule. Since we produce it when we’re kind, kindness can also be said to be cardio-protective.
I remember, as a child, a saying among some of the older people in our street was that ‘if you live from the heart, it’s good for the heart’. They were pretty much on the money with that!
Once oxytocin is in our arteries, which happens when we’re being kind, it causes nitric oxide to be produced. Nitric oxide is a bit of a miracle molecule – that’s according to Dr Louis Ignarro, who received the Nobel Prize for his work on it. Nitric oxide helps regulate blood pressure by altering the texture of our arterial walls. If blood pressure is high, nitric oxide makes the arteries softer and this causes them to widen (dilate) and blood pressure comes down. If blood pressure is low, on the other hand, then nitric oxide toughens up the arteries to increase the pressure.
Nitric oxide also helps circulation and plays a very important role in maintaining blood flow all around the body, including the brain. It also helps maintain an optimum balance of HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol. It may be a miracle molecule but an even greater miracle is that we produce it by being kind.
Thus, kindness is very good for the heart because it produces oxytocin and nitric oxide, two molecules of kindness, and they both act on the heart and arteries to keep them healthy.
References and more information can be found in my new book, (The 5 Side Effects of Kindness), (Feb 2017). Amazon UK Amazon.com Amazon.ca Amazon.com.au
It’s always empowering to hear how our positive choices, emotions, and behaviors create changes in our body that contribute to our health. Thanks, David!
After reading this a guess I should leave a ‘kind’ comment. …It is truely a lovely article and I shall take it to heart (pardon the pun) and attempt to enthuse my good deeds with more genuine kindness and less dutifulness! Thank you for this beautiful reminder on how to live life better.
Thanks for your ‘kind’ words, Linda. 🙂
Will this be available on audiobook?
Will this be available on audiobook? .
Hi Lee, yes, ‘The 5 Side Effects of Kindness’ will be available on audiobook. The molecules of kindness are described fully in the book. 🙂
Thank you for those kind and informative words David. I heard you talk at an EFT weekend a few years ago and love your sense of humour .I just wonder if my experience and feelings are correct. Three years ago I was called to have an Angiogram which resulted in having a Stent, as I was told I had a blocked Artery going to my heart. However I have always had a feeling that it was not so much a Physical block but rather an Emotional one. I wonder if you believe this possible? Fortunately I have moved on since then , Love myself for who I AM and do self Healing and meditation for Peace and Harmony for all. At 76 and on no medication I generally feel in good heath and express Gratitude for that and all my Blessings. Lastly I feel Gratitude and Love for all your work and what you share with the the world .
I like this article because it makes sense, it’s informative, it’s direct, and its short.
Okay previous reply had typos. I like this article. It is informative, direct, warm-hearted, and short!
Thanks for your kind words, Lesley. 🙂
This article makes me happy … last year …when i still was at school as a teacher ….i initiated the “miracle kindness” project …. and just preordered your book ….
nothing with this article
your puppy and you 🙂 showed the way the my puppy and me … she is here since 5 weeks …five weeks of kindness 🙂 a white labrador retiriever …. blessings
I love the sound of your “miracle kindness” project, Veronika. Well done. 🙂 I hope you are having many happy moments with your puppy. 🙂
‘ Heart Opening’ Is the theme of my next chi yoga class. Thank you Universe, perfect timing for sending David’s brilliant article. I have been looking for my copies of your books, but unfortunately I always find someone who I feel needs them so I pass them on, then have to reorder them! I will be using the ‘Loving Kindness’ meditation which you did on one of your courses quite a few years ago. Love all your work and of course you. Will now order your new book. Thank you, thank you, thank you! love Christine
Thanks so much for your kind comment, Christine. And that is so very kind of you that you always end up passing my books on to people whom you feel need them. 🙂
Hi David, Just ordered your new book and am looking forward to receiving it. Loved listening to the side effects of kindness this evening. Hugs Mair (Mary Llewellyn)
Thanks Mair. Hope you enjoy. 🙂