Kindness is Good for the Heart


Call it a Valentine’s Day/National Heart Health Month/Random Acts of Kindness Week mashup. Today’s post for Day 4 of Random Acts of heart-shaped-tomato-random-acts-of-kindness-week-kindness-is-good-for-your-heartKindness Week is all about why kindness is good for your heart.

I always assumed that kindness is good not only for the world at large, but for us personally. I know for me I always feel good inside when I offer kindness from a true and pure place, not just emotionally, but spiritually, and physically. I get a little lift in my mood, and my step is a little lighter. I’ve extrapolated that since I feel good in the moment, something must be going on inside my body that is inherently healthy.

Turns out there is solid research that confirms that assumption. And that research not only points to a momentary benefit, but a long-lasting benefit of a healthier heart when kindness is practiced regularly. David R. Hamilton, Ph.D., author of Why Kindness is Good for You, says keeping up acts of kindness will reduce your risk of heart disease over time, at least a little.

Every time we act in a kind way, our body releases the hormone oxytocin, which he says, “plays a key role in the brain as a neurotransmitter and facilitates social bonding.” For example, when we bond with family and friends the hormone is released by both the brain and the heart, helping us feel closer to them. It’s sometimes referred to as the “cuddle chemical”, according to Hamilton. Studies show a direct correlation between the release of oxytocin after a hug, followed by a reduction in blood pressure. There’s also research showing the release of the hormone after doing something kind for someone else.

I won’t get into the whole process of how it works—you can read more in Hamilton’s article on Huffington Post—but the bottom line is that he believes there is a cumulative positive effect on the heart when kindness is practiced regularly.

You can get started on a healthier heart today by performing some little act of kindness for someone else. Each day this week I’ve shared assignments from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3) to help you get started. Today’s assignment is to bring a treat to a neighbor or co-worker. Since we’re talking about healthier hearts here, and everybody’s probably inundated with candy already, consider bringing a healthy treat as an alternative, like some really good fruit, or heart-healthy almonds (O.K., if you must, maybe there could be some dark chocolate dipping involved).

I would love to hear what kind acts people are performing this week, so please let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook page.