Published in the Cistern
By Al Pirozzoli
Did you know that whether you are the giver, the receiver or the observer of an act of kindness — you reap tremendous benefits to your health?
It’s all about serotonin, the feel-good drug in your body, that helps relay messages from one area of the brain to another. Because of the widespread distribution of its cells, it is believed to influence a variety of psychological and bodily functions. In terms of our body function, serotonin can also affect the functioning of our cardiovascular system, and muscles.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that the act of kindness has a positive effect on the immune system and on the increased production of serotonin in the brain. Research shows that whenever a simple act of kindness is extended by one person towards another, it results in increased production of serotonin in both the recipient of the kindness as well as in the person extending the kindness. Even more amazing is that even people simply observing an act of kindness also experiences increased production of serotonin! Kindness is a win-win-win scenario.
People naturally feel good when they give, help or serve others because they experience something called “helper’s high,” which authors Allan Luks and Peggy Payne (The Healing Power of Doing Good) describe as a feeling of exhilaration and burst of energy similar to the endorphin-based euphoria experienced after intense exercise, followed by a period of calmness and serenity. Research has shown that those who routinely engage in acts of kindness, such as volunteers, experience alleviation of stress, chronic pain, and even insomnia.
An article in Psychology Today titled “What We Get When We Give” (by Christine Carter, Ph.D.) states: “People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week.” So, there you have it, acts of kindness boost your serotonin which increases a sense of self-worth, joy, boosts physical and emotional well-being, decreases feelings of depression, and diminishes the effect of diseases and disorders.
Well once again, it looks like Jesus was right: “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you give it will be measured back to you.”—Luke 6:38