Does Kindness Help Ensure Good Health?

Kindness shown in intentionally saying thanks, making every social encounter count and volunteering in cause groups may get you an extra health boost, according to Kelli Harding, M.D., MPH, psychiatrist and author of "The Rabbit Effect." "Kindness influences health and aging on a microscopic cellular level," she said.

She continued that a supportive hug from a person you love can free hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin that can make you feel good and protect you against infections. Kindness is revealed to safeguard one's health and maintain its good state, as supported by several studies.

For instance, one study that involved 400 healthy individuals exposed to the cold virus were 32 percent unlikely to get sick because they received hugs everyday. For some volunteers who fell ill but received daily hugs, they didn't stay sick for too long.

Relationships and environments that have strong support system help individuals live better and longer. Growing research shows that incessant kindness changes how genetic codes are translated such as how a parent cares for a child.

According to Harding, advanced genetics found that telomeres, the protective DNA caps, varies in length depending on how a person's relationship and environment can be supportive or stressful. The longer telomere buffers are, the longer is an individual's span of life, and it significantly lowers disease occurrence, too.

Harding added that good relationships prevents stress. Consequently, blood pressure, immune function, mood and recovery are improved.

In an 80-year-old study by the Harvard University of adult development, it revealed that intelligence, fame, gene or money were not the major determiners of a lengthy and healthy life, rather the strong foundation of the relationships of the participants. Thus, promoting good physical state.

Social activity seems to promote good brain functioning and significantly lowered risk of dementia at 70 percent, as shown in another longitudinal study, which analyzed 1,138 healthy older adults.

Chronic loneliness is considered to cause illness, hence the increased risks of heart diseases and premature deaths, while positive relationships decreases pain, inflammation and cortisol levels. "The exciting news is that every day each of us has the opportunity to increase kindness and connection in all areas of our lives," Harding concluded.

Kindness The brain's amygdala may be an underlying mechanism that influences positive and kind social behavior. Kate Ter Haar, CC BY 2.0