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The Kindness Cure

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How is Kindness Beneficial to Our Health?

Studies show how acts of kindness benefit our health, happiness and longevity

The Kindness Cure

Kindness vs. Incivility

With the holidays approaching and another year coming to a close, this time spent with friends and family can serve as an opportunity to reflect on the power of kindness, which is badly needed in our contentious world today. Whether through the mediums of social media or television news as well as in our workplaces, homes, and relationships, we have all experienced the rising tide of incivility which seems to be sweeping over our nation. 

According to the most current survey numbers, gathered by Weber and Shandwick and Powell Tate in their report titled Civility in America, 84% of Americans polled reported personally experiencing incivility. 69% of those polled cited the Internet and social media as the prime conduits of rudeness, with 25% reporting having been the victim of cyberbullying, compared to 9% in 2011. Additional alarming numbers include the 59% of respondents who said they had disengaged from politics due to rising incivility; the 56% who've experienced road rage; 34% on the receiving end of rudeness in the workplace, and 25% of parents who've had their children transfer schools due to cultures of incivility and bullying.

When asked to define civility, the poll participants answered in part:

"Being civil - thoughtful, kind, sympathetic, able to get along with others, understanding in thought and word."

"Observing the rules of social etiquette, even when one disagrees."

"Respect and honor people as you would like to be treated"

The Golden Rule

This last response, of course, is the essence of the Golden Rule, which sits at the heart of all the world's major religious and ethical systems. It's central tenant of reciprocity, familiar to so many of us that we take it for granted,  is as with all wisdom simple in hearing, difficult in application, as these poll numbers demonstrate. Even our own profession of nursing, routinely voted as one of the most trusted of vocations, isn't immune to the virus of incivility, as was addressed in a previous post. 

How to Alleviate Rudeness

What steps can we take to begin alleviating this rudeness epidemic, which is detrimental to individual and collective physical, psychological, and emotional health? In a September 2019 article from The Houston Chronicle, Drs. Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz point out that "Accumulating research from around the globe shows how powerfully beneficial kindness, both extended to others and received from others, is to your physical and emotional well-being." In fact, they contend, "[Kindness] may be the missing component in your quest for better health."

The Power of Kindness

Among the work they cite is a book titled The Rabbit Effect by Dr. Kelli Harding, former emergency room psychiatrist at New York Presbyterian Hospital. It "explores the power of kindness and its importance in achieving health, both individually and as a nation." The book gets its title from the remarkable discovery that rabbits on a high-fat diet, when treated with kindness (cuddled and talked to tenderly) were found to have 60% fewer artery-blocking deposits than rabbits fed the same diet but given similar treatment. 

Additionally, Dr. Harding's book highlights a Carnegie Mellon study where 400 volunteers were exposed to a cold virus, with those volunteers who received a daily hug being 32% less likely to come down with the cold. Drs. Roizen and Oz also mention the well-known Harvard Study of Adult Development, which found that relationship satisfaction (built on empathy and compassion) among the all-male study group was more determinate of overall health than factors such as cholesterol levels. There are also the results of a University of California study which showed that participants aged 65 and older who volunteered for two or more organizations "had a 44 percent lower likelihood of dying over the time of the study. That means that the kindness of volunteering is nearly as beneficial to your health as quitting smoking!"

They write further:

Quote

"Generosity, empathy, selflessness, friendship, love and volunteering to help others: All these qualities promote robust good health by reducing stress, increasing happiness (all those good hormones, like oxytocin, that surge around your body) and easing inflammation."

Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All

When practiced in conjunction with a balanced, whole food diet, regular exercise, and restful sleep, regular acts of kindness can help promote a cultural shift toward "peace on earth and goodwill to all." 

References

Civility in America Report
http://www.webershandwick.com/uploads/news/files/Civility_in_America_the_State_of_Civility.pdf

 "The amazing health benefits of Kindness"
https://www.houstonchronicle.com/lifestyle/renew-houston/health/article/The-amazing-health-benefits-of-kindness-14449532.php

About Dr Georgianna Donadio, PhD (Member) Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD, is the Director of the National Institute of Whole Health, and a health care visionary who pioneered the integration of Whole Health and Whole Person Healthcare within medical and holistic health organizations. Georgianna is one of only six Florence Nightingale Scholars in the U.S., an MNA award-winning Nurse Advocate and widely published Integrative Health expert and healthcare provider. Named “Best Integrative Healthcare Practitioner” in Boston, for 20 years she hosted the nationally syndicated, regionally Emmy nominated women’s TV programming, Woman-to-Woman®. She is currently the host of iHeart radio’s Living above the Drama which is heard globally, and an Amazon #1 Bestselling award-winning author. She has been a regular contributor/writer for the Huffington Post, Dr. Oz’s Share Care, Daily Strength and other national blogs.

2 Followers; 11 Articles; 3,334 Profile Views; 38 Posts

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Jedrnurse has 25 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in school nurse.

1,532 Posts; 14,261 Profile Views

"There are also the results of a University of California study which showed that participants aged 65 and older who volunteered for two or more organizations "had a 44 percent lower likelihood of dying over the time of the study. That means that the kindness of volunteering is nearly as beneficial to your health as quitting smoking!"

Couldn't this also mean that people who volunteered in their communities were in better psychological health and probably took better care of themselves anyway?

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2 Followers; 11 Articles; 38 Posts; 3,334 Profile Views

Hi Jednurse,
Yes, it certainly could mean that! And, it might be that people who can express kindness find themselves in better psychological health than those of us we are angry, resentful or bitter as a result of our
disappointments and life experience. It's like the chicken and egg discussion. 

What we do know is that doing acts of kindness, or showing kindness to others in any form, is healing for ourselves and for others. It could be that getting to a place in our emotional life where we choose to
express kindness, in spite of what we experience, is the "special sauce"
that makes it work.

Thanks for sharing!
Kind regards,
Georgianna

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