The 5 Side Effects of Kindness

mother showing kindness to daughterWhen we think of side effects the first thing that springs to mind are the side effects of drugs. But who’d have thought that kindness could have side effects too?

Well, it does! And positive ones at that.

1) Kindness Makes us Happier
When we do something kind for someone else, we feel good. On a spiritual level, many people feel that this is because it is the right thing to do and so we’re tapping into something deep and profound inside of us that says, ‘This is who I am.’

On a biochemical level, it is believed that the good feeling we get is due to elevated levels of the brain’s natural versions of morphine and heroin, which we know as endogenous opioids. They cause elevated levels of dopamine in the brain and so we get a natural high, often referred to as ‘Helper’s High’.

2) Kindness Is Good for the Heart
Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone, oxytocin, in the brain and throughout the body. Of recent interest is its significant role in the cardiovascular system.

Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure). The key is that acts kindness can produce oxytocin and therefore kindness can be said to be cardioprotective.

3) Kindness Slows Ageing
Ageing on a biochemical level is a combination of many things, but two culprits that speed the process are Free Radicals and Inflammation, both of which result from making unhealthy lifestyle choices.

But remarkable research now shows that oxytocin (that we produce through emotional warmth) reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and so slows ageing at source. Incidentally these two culprits also play a major role in heart disease so this is also another reason why kindness is good for the heart.

There have also been suggestions in the scientific journals of the strong link between compassion and the activity of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve, as well as regulating heart rate, also controls inflammation levels in the body. One study that used the Tibetan Buddhist’s ‘Loving Kindness Compassion’ meditation found that kindness and compassion did, in fact, reduce inflammation in the body, mostly likely due to its effects on the vagus nerve.

4) Kindness Improves Relationships
This is one of the most obvious points. We all know that we like people who show us kindness. This is because kindness reduces the emotional distance between two people and so we feel more ‘bonded’. It’s something that is so strong in us that it’s actually a genetic thing. We are wired for kindness.

Our evolutionary ancestors had to learn to cooperate with one another. The stronger the emotional bonds within groups, the greater were the chances of survival and so ‘kindness genes’ were etched into the human genome.

So today when we are kind to each other we feel a connection and new relationships are forged, or existing ones strengthened.

5) Kindness is Contagious
When we’re kind we inspire others to be kind and studies show that it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends – to 3-degrees of separation. Just as a pebble creates waves when it is dropped in a pond, so acts of kindness ripple outwards touching others’ lives and inspiring kindness everywhere the wave goes.

A study reported than an anonymous 28-year-old person walked into a clinic and donated a kidney. It set off a ‘pay it forward’ type ripple effect where the spouses or other family members of recipients of a kidney donated one of theirs to someone else in need. The ‘domino effect’, as it was called in the New England Journal of Medicine report, spanned the length and breadth of the United States of America, where 10 people received a new kidney as a consequence of that anonymous donor.

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References

5 side effects jacket imageReferences to all studies can be found in David R Hamilton, PhD., ‘The Five Side Effects of Kindness‘ (Hay House, February 2017).

 

68 thoughts on “The 5 Side Effects of Kindness

  1. Loved this! <3 Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Sherry. 🙂

  3. Nora Hopkins

    So useful for my Project! Thank you for all your help!

  4. This has 5 side effects, but what about the side effects of when your moody, or upset.

  5. David R. Hamilton PhD

    I don’t know much about side effects of being moody or upset, Skylar. I think that’s part of our humanness so I don’t believe there are any negative consequences. I believe the body has a health-bias towards kindness so when we’re kind we help the body be healthy in a number of different ways. 🙂

  6. David R. Hamilton PhD

    I’m pleased it’s helpful, Nora. 🙂

  7. MN

    Very Helpful, thanks

  8. mariechelle sun

    wow my mom loved this

  9. Ruby Chan

    Thank you immensely for your excellent teaching and for generously sharing your amazing knowledge, which have positively transformed so many people’s lives. My friends and I were incredibly impressed for your outstanding presentation on 1 October 2017, at the Hay House “I Can Do It” Event. –

  10. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks for your kind words, Ruby. 🙂

  11. Stephanie

    I’m feeling super blessed right now! I awoke this AM w/ an unusual & unrelenting need to post words of kindness all on FB & to also challanged (in a not so obv. way) ppl to choose kindness and not only lift others up but also reap the many physical, mental, & emotional benefits being kind has to offer to the ‘givers’ of kindness.
    Prior to hitting ‘POST’ I quickly checked the neurophys effects re:to kindness on our brains & the correct name of the biochemical released in our brains, ( I was correct, but kept second guessing myself between dopamine and serotonin). It was during my quick ‘research’ when I incidentally stumbled upon this article, and as I’m typing this comment I can’t help but to think…”it was a ‘God thing’ “. Thank You for sharing. Thank You for spreading smiles, joy, warmth & kindness; May the ripple continue! Have a Blessed day!

    I would like to say something in response to Sherry Knights question regarding the side effects of being upset or moody, while I’m not a doctor, I am a medical professional. I have been fascinated by our beautiful brains for as long as I can remember and I’m constantly reading, studing, researching…etc. all things brain… I don’t totally disagree with your answer to Sherry re:to her question about possible side effects of being moody and/or upset, but, to be clear, I do think it’s important to note that these moods, IF handled appropriately, (ie: addressed quickly & expressed in a healthy manner), ‘shouldn’t’ have neg side effects, however, when ppl don’t address these issues timely, appropriately, and in a healthy manner (ie: not addressing source of frustration, “bottling up” emotions, exploding, or ‘carrying’ “it” with you), all of which MOST DEFINITELY have negative side effects on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being, many of them.

    Just my opinion, gained through self-taught knowledge and life experiences.

    Have a great day!

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