That warm glow you feel after helping someone is a real thing according to recent studies. Researchers at the University of Sussex, England, found a physiological response in brains scanned by MRIs while people were making kind decisions.
It was found that the brain literally lit up, meaning that the certain regions of the brain were activated and used more oxygen. This phenomenon occurred whether or not the kind act was altruistic or the participant expected something in return for his or her kindness. However, researchers also observed a unique response when people were kind without expecting any gain from their actions, according to “Medical Daily.”
“We found some regions in the brain that were more active during altruistic, rather than strategic, generosity so it seems there is something special about situations where our only motivation to give to others is to feel good about being kind,” said Jo Cutler, Ph.D., a student who co-authored the study.
Other benefits of kindness include:
- Releasing the love hormone. Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxycontin, also referred to as the “love hormone.” This aids in lowering blood pressure and improving overall heart health, according to Dartmouth.edu.
- Increasing lifespan. According to author and researcher Christine Carter, “People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pain. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People who are 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying earlier. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.”
- Creating more energy. Carter, who works at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, says that half the participants in one study reported they felt stronger and more energetic after helping others. “Many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed,” she said.
- Lowers stress. Kind people have 23% less cortisol — the stress hormone — and age slower than the general population.
- Lowers anxiety. A University of British Columbia study reveals that a group of highly anxious people who performed at least six acts of kindness each week for a month showed significant improvement in positive moods, relationship satisfaction, and social avoidance.
- Decreases depression. Stephen Post of Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-realization and physical health is significantly improved.
- Kindness is contagious. The positive effects of kindness are experience in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act. This, in turn, improves their mood making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward,” This means that one good deed in a crowded area can create a domino effect.”