Why Kindness is Good For You Paperback – February 15, 2010
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I have known for a long time that love heals, but now David shows us how! When we are loving to one another we emit oxytocin, a "kindness protein" or a "molecule of kindness", and it turn out that this oxytocin speeds up wound healing, reduces blood pressure, softens our arteries, reduces inflammation, stimulates angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels), repairs a broken heart and turns on heart-muscle regeneration. I found this to be amazing and wonderful information.
When we connect with someone, oxytocin flows through our brain and body. It gives us "the helper's high". Kindness "occupies the same neural circuits as addictive drugs". The helper's high comes in part from the release of endogenous opiates in the brain. Endogenous opiates are those produced by the body.
When we are kind, serotonin and dopamine are also released in the brain, helping to lift our mood and make us feel more positive. The oxytocin produced by an interaction between two people helps to strengthen bonds with others by making us feel more connected. Kindness can be as good as pain-killing drugs owing to the release of the endogenous opiates or endorphins. These bond to cells in the part of the brain involved in transmitting pain, "taking the place of the chemicals that transmit pain signals and so interrupting the transmission of pain signals through the brain".
We are informed of the benefits of loving-kindness meditation (see my review of "Loving-kindness, The Revolutionary Art of Happiness" by Sharon Salzberg), which benefits include pain relief and the increase of positive emotions such as love, joy and gratitude in those practicing this meditation on a daily basis.
There are chapters about the power of compassion, having the nerve to be compassionate and how kindness changes the brain.
Just as the brain changes as we move our muscles, it also changes as we think. This changeability of the brain is known as neuroplasticity, and is the means whereby a compassion meditation increases the thickness of the prefrontal cortex. Thinking compassionate thoughts creates millions of new connections on the left side of the frontal cortex of the brain just above the left eye. If kindness becomes a habit, we can significantly alter the wiring of our brain.
There are several chapters about oxytocin (David keeps going back to this significant chemical), which is called both the "love hormone" and the "cuddle chemical". It is produced when we have sex and during orgasm and when we touch or stroke each other. Kindness, compassion and socializing produce it. Some of the ways to increase oxytocin are as follows: 1) Get inspired 2) Express emotions (women who suppress emotion, especially negative emotions, are more at risk of developing breast cancer) 3) Get a massage 4) Support a loved one 5) Give hugs and 6) Stroke a pet.
Oxytocin plays an important role in food digestion and helps the movement of matter through the colon by stimulating contractions. Oxytocin levels are lower in people suffering from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). David suggests that IBS sufferers talk kindly to their bowel a few times a day.
Oxytocin may be the key to relieving both IBS, fibromyalgia and depression. Oxytocin reduces inflammation, which plays a role in many types of cancer.
Thus, love, making love, kindness, hugs, warm touch, gratitude, inspiration and connection with other people reduces inflammation in the body, keeps ourselves healthier and helps ourselves to live longer. Good-quality relationships are good for our health because they maintain good levels of oxytocin.
A chapter entitled "Supporting the heart" tells us about the Roseto effect. Roseto is a town in the USA which previously had an extremely strong sense of community (this is no longer the case, unfortunately) and this resulted in the rate of death by heart disease in the town being half the national average for men aged over 65 and almost zero for men aged 55-64.
The heart yearns for love, so being socially isolated from others is not good for us. Social interconnectedness is a better predictor of a healthy heart than "smoking or cholesterol". Hostility and stress is more influential in the development of heart disease than poor diet or lack of exercise. People in happy marriages tend to have a happy heart.
The book contains innumerable valuable chapters, including one on counting your blessings and one on letting go of the past. At the end of each chapter in the book we are given stories of kindness.
David also presents us with the 21-day kindness challenge, the suggestion to do three acts of kindness a day, "a few ideas for schoolteachers" and finally a list of 50 suggestions for acts of kindness.
Thus, I would strongly recommend that you read this well-written, uplifting and oxytocin-producing book. In fact I would suggest reading a David Hamilton book once a month for increased stimulation of your production of oxytocin to create a healthy heart and body!
Top international reviews
I found the information on how kindness and trust can help build economic fortunes particularly interesting and in constrast to other things I have mistakenly picked up.
Well worth a read and a re-read.
All his books are good reads,real eye-openers and I highly recommend them.