Kindness is Good for the Heart

We are proud to host a Twitter Chat with Dr. David Hamilton during Random Acts of Kindness Week. Join Cynthia Germanotta (@momgerm) and Dr. David Hamilton (@DrDRHamilton) on February 15th, at 12PM EST in our #KindnessChat. Dr. Hamilton is a kindness researcher and author of 9 inspiring books. We’re so excited to talk about the power of compassion and share his insight. 

 

Do you know that warm feeling you get with kindness?

It’s like a feeling of connection, or even rightness. Some say they get a warm feeling in the chest, others feel it emotionally. With others, it’s like a little burst of happiness that causes them to smile.

Either way, that warm feeling has numerous positive consequences in the body. Some of these positive effects occur in the heart and arteries. It starts with oxytocin. Genuine kindness produces oxytocin in the body.

Oxytocin is well known for its role in childbirth and breast feeding. It stimulates uterine contractions and facilitates the ‘letting down’ of breast milk. But exciting new research shows that one of its major roles in throughout the cardiovascular system. It’s called a ‘cardio-protective’ hormone. Cardio-protective?

This basically means that it protects the cardiovascular system (heart and arteries). It does this in two main ways: It lowers blood pressure and it helps keep the arteries clear of certain conditions that lead to disease.

More specifically, oxytocin produces nitric oxide, which dilates (widens) the arteries, thereby relieving the pressure on the heart to push blood through, thus lowering blood pressure. Secondly, it acts as both an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory in our arteries, thus reducing levels of harmful free radicals and inflammation, both of which are linked with cardiovascular disease.

The amazing thing about this is that it is kindness that switches on this cardioprotective effect. Kindness is very good for the heart.

When I was a child, some of the older women in our village had a saying that went: “If you live from the heart, it’s good for the heart.” Sayings like these are born out of observations of the people and community around you. They noticed that people who were genuinely kind tended to be healthier. People who were unkind, rude, aggressive, or were bullies, tended to have more heart problems.

Although not a scientific study by any manner of means, this kind of observation is now actually validated by scientific research. Hostility and aggression are now linked with cardiovascular disease. Genuine kindness, on the other hand, is cardioprotective!

And I say ‘genuine’ for a reason. It takes the feeling of connection to produce oxytocin. We only get this feeling when kindness is genuine. If it’s not genuine, there’s no oxytocin. It’s like nature’s catch-22. You only get the benefit from kindness when your kindness is heartfelt and honest. In other words, you only benefit when you’re not trying to benefit.

It’s like nature is showing us that genuine kindness is the way!

 

David R Hamilton, PhD., is author of 9 books, including ‘The 5 Side Effects of Kindness’. He has a PhD in organic chemistry and spent 4 years in the pharmaceutical industry developing drugs for heart disease and cancer. Inspired by the placebo effect, he left the industry to write about and educate people in how their mind and emotions can impact their health. David is also a former athletics coach and a former lecturer in chemistry and ecology, and he co-founded the international relief charity, ‘Spirit Aid Foundation’. He spends most of his time writing and speaking on kindness and topics around mind, emotions, and health.