Home Columnists Andrew McDonald: The benefits of being kind

Andrew McDonald: The benefits of being kind

THE NEWS in the last couple of weeks has been particularly tragic and shocking.

The purpose of this column is not to make political points or tread into the realm of hard news. For that reason, those events aren’t going to be visited here.

We are all aware of them, how disturbing they have been and the need for action to be taken to prevent these situations from happening again.

They can however be an impetus to plant a seed of positivity, kindness, in troubling times.

The world can be a very cruel place. The internet and in particular social media plays a role in this. Some people absolutely revel in the anonymity of being a keyboard warrior able to facelessly abuse others.

This doesn’t of course mean that every web-based troll, or even a majority of them, commit obscene and atrocious acts once they step away from the screen. It’s more a symptom of the problem than the disease itself.

However, we can all be part of the solution! By trying to be kinder to others we not only contribute to making the world a happier place for others to live in, we also directly benefit from our own kindness.

For a start, being kind boosts our immune systems! Showing kindness to others raises the powerful feel-good hormone, oxytocin.

Others treating us kindly also leads to an increase in this chemical and logic tells us that if we are kind to others they are more likely to be kind to us.

Oxytocin not only reduces inflammation in the body, it also expands blood vessels which reduces blood pressure. Both of these effects together reduce your risk of diabetes, cancer, chronic pain, obesity, migraines and heart disease.

Thinking about the feelings of other people, a key component of kindness, means we spend less time fixating on our own emotions. All of us should take the time to investigate how we feel and why but ruminating on these sensations feeds into anxiety.

Taking time out to think about other people leads to a break from rumination and can help to stop us from feeling anxious.

Kindness also takes us away from the flight-fight-freeze response. When we’re being kind, we’re no longer combative. This means we’re more relaxed and better able to enjoy lives.

Additionally, it means others find us more enjoyable to be around which is another powerful way of improving our wellbeing.

The events referred to in the first couple of paragraphs are very fortunately a world away from the lives of the vast majority of us.

Very few of us however can honestly say a little additional kindness wouldn’t bring us great benefits.

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