Several studies show that exercising kindness boosts happiness levels, but new evidence shows it also promotes healthier aging, too.
Adding a little kindness into your day can boost your self esteem, support your immune system, improve the health of your heart and promote healthy aging.
So why not add small acts of kindness to your day? Being kind creates a ripple effect that inspires those around you. Think how we can make small changes in our communities with kindness and learn how to be happy at the same time. It’s definitely a win-win.
Kindness involves enacting kind behaviors toward other people. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming — it’s simply showing a bit of love, gratitude and compassion to the people around you.
And did you know that kindness is actually contagious? Simply observing an act of kindness can boost happiness levels and make the viewer more likely to practice kindness. This is exactly why the “pay it forward” method works so well.
Practicing kindness is like lifting weights — you need to exercise kindness and strengthen those muscles over time. The best way to do that is to perform random acts of kindness every day. You’ll notice that it boosts your optimism, self esteem and overall happiness — making you want to enact kind behaviors even more often.
Here are some random acts of kindness you can try:
There are many health benefits of kindness, and most only take a few seconds or minutes of your day. Here’s how kindness impacts your health:
And here’s where it gets really interesting. The recent randomized controlled trial conducted by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that practicing loving-kindness meditation may actually slow aging.
When 142 middle-aged adults participated in mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation or a “waitlist” control group during a 6-week workshop, scientists recorded their telomere length. The participants in meditation groups attended six hour-long group meditation classes once a week and practiced meditation at home for 20 minutes per day using an audio recording.
Telomeres, the markers used for this study, are known as hallmarks of aging. They’re the protective caps at the end of chromosomes that prevent them from damage. As we age, telomeres begin to wear down and shorten. Studies show that this is associated with a number of health issues, including DNA damage and cancer. In fact, telomere length is directly related to longevity.
And we know lifestyle factors, like getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet, reduce the rate of telomere loss, while factors like chronic stress and living a sedentary life wear them down earlier in life.
The meditation study found that the loving-kindness meditation group lost significantly less telomere length than the other groups. The mindfulness meditation group showed changes in telomere length that were intermediate between the loving-kindness and control groups.
Researchers concluded that loving-kindness meditation may work to “buffer telomere attrition,” thereby serving as a tool for healthy aging.
Want to give loving-kindness meditation a try? Here’s an exercise from Berkeley’s Greater Good in Action program.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Social Psychology tested whether performing different types of kindness activities impacts happiness. Researchers found that performing kindness activities for seven days increased happiness levels. And they also found a positive correlation between the number of kind acts and increases in happiness.
And a study published in Journal of Happiness Studies indicates that happy people scored higher on their recognition and enactment of kind behaviors. Female undergraduate students in Japan reported that their subjective happiness increased simply by counting their own acts of kindness in one week.
The study results suggest that happy people become even more kind and grateful when they think back on their kindness, and a person’s strength of kindness plays an important role in increasing happiness.
Clearly there’s a powerful kindness-happiness connection, but why does this occur? Kindness affects the brain and body in several ways, including the following:
Are you loving the healthy aging benefits of kindness? Here are other simple ways to keep your mind and body sharp even as you age.
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