Kindness: Does Being Kind to Others Help you Live Longer?
Kindness is not just a habit that is good for others, it also has important benefits for us.
The upcoming Christmas season should be one of kindness and giving anyway, but writer, blogger, speaker, entrepreneur and former HR executive Louis Efron gives us some great “selfish” reasons to develop the habit of being kind to others. Take it away Louis….
Kindness: Live Longer?
Mostly everyone desires to be a good person. However, even the best of us can be pushed into unkind thoughts and actions against people who treat us poorly.
I can recall several times in life where I fell into this unhealthy and unfortunate trap. At the time, my anger felt justified. However, justification quickly grew into frustration and then disappointment. If only I had handled my processing of the interaction better.
The irony is such behavior tends to cause more harm to the person thinking or performing the unkind acts than to the target they are intended for. This is because the act of being unkind fosters negative thoughts, increases your blood pressure and your fatigue. It also causes lost sleep, distracts you from important and enjoyable activities and affects other relationships. Plus, it makes you feel bad and has an adverse impact on your quality of work, life and health.
Medical science has proved being kind alters your body chemistry, improving your mood, lowering your blood pressure and increasing your positive thinking. The kicker – an act of kindness – boosts serotonin, a natural antidepressant in your brain, in the giver, the receiver and those who witness it.
Studies have also shown being kind improves your happiness and extends your life span. Bottom line: always being kind is good for you and those around you.
Knowing the negative results of being unkind, why would anyone behave badly towards a total stranger or a person who is most likely struggling to enjoy their own life and find happiness?
Why are so many people pulled into this dark place?
It happens because of a natural response; humans are wired this way. Our sympathetic nervous system responds to any perceived stressful event. It’s a defense mechanism held over from the early days of human evolution, a survival auto-response.
When threatening interactions occur, our body prepares to either fight or flee. This results in increased heart rate, faster blood flow to the brain and muscles, raised sugar levels, sweaty palms and soles, dilated pupils and erect hairs.
Luckily, humans also have the capacity to train our brains to behave in different, more modern, and productive ways. With the right mindset, you can overcome anger that leads to unkind thoughts and actions that hurt both you and your perceived adversary.
Below are three truths I use to help me change the way I process unpleasant interactions in my life. My commitment to these truths made me happier and healthier. If you believe in and practice them, they will bring magical results to your life, too.
TRUTH #1: You can’t control the actions of others, so don’t try.
People will do and say things in life that you will not agree with. Some will be mean and hurtful. How you process these interactions involves you and not them. Your attitude and demeanor towards others can influence outcomes, but your only real control is over your own actions and reactions. Kindness always serves you and others best. A wise video store manager I worked for in high school reminded me after every unhappy customer interaction, “a person can’t fight with those who don’t fight back.” He advised me to always be kind and continue to serve our customers. Once I learned to do this, I never again left my job frustrated or unhappy.
TRUTH #2: You can’t get angry enough to make things right.
Anger is an unproductive emotion. It is self-serving, generating only more of itself. Anger clouds your mind with negative thoughts, forcing out any positive and productive ones. In addition, research shows short and long-term health risks associated with anger. These include:
- digestion problems, such as abdominal pain
- increased anxiety
- high blood pressure
- skin problems, such as eczema
- heart attack
It is critical to remember anger will never produce the results you seek. It will only serve to cause you and others harm.
TRUTH #3 You can never go wrong being kind. Ever
In Dr. Wayne Dyer’s words: “A mind at peace, a mind centered and not focused on harming others, is stronger than any physical force in the universe.” In the Huffington Post video, The Science Of Kindness Explained – Why Do People Do Nice Things? Dr. Dyer’s conclusion is scientifically proven to be the ultimate state-of-mind for happiness and health. The video confirms every act of kindness holds magical properties to transform your life and the world around you. It turns out kindness brings life while anger and hate conveys sickness and death.
When you shift your thoughts from negative to positive, from hate to love, from war to peace, you achieve the same results in your life. You will go to sleep with a clear heart and mind, awaken feeling rested and energized, and will be happier and more productive. Others will be drawn to you and you will have the capacity to change the world.
When you embody love, kindness and forgiveness then happiness and health will follow.
If you want more information on developing a “happiness habit” make sure to check out what Louis has to say in his new book, or check out one of these other great happiness books, that you can find as part of my 175+ self help books.