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I have been a registered nurse, nurse practitioner and most importantly a patient advocate for over 20 years. I have worked in hospitals, homes and as a private consultant, always teaching patients how to speak up for themselves and to make well informed healthcare decisions that are right for them and help them to avoid all types of Medical Errors. The many things I have seen in healthcare led me write "What Did the Doctor Just Say." In it are all the steps every patient needs to take to remain safe in the healthcare system and avoid medical errors. My personal goal is help to save 100,000 people from the horrors of a medical error and I wrote What Did the Doctor Just Say? to help make that happen.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Being Kind Is Good For Your Health


Kindness can bring a sense of richness and fulfilment to our lives, and as a bonus, promote good health and longevity. Paul Pearsall, a Ph.D.in 
psychology living in Hawaii, writes in his book The Pleasure 
Prescription (Hunter House, 1996) "Modern research shows
one of the most pleasurable of all human acts is also one 
of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and 
for others. Gentle, caring selflessness results in significant 
health benefits."
In the book Meaning & Medicine, (Bantam Books, 1991) 
author Dr Larry Dossey tells us, "Altruism behaves like a 
miracle drug, and a strange one at that. It has beneficial effects 
on the person doing the helping - the helper’s high; it benefits 
the person to whom the help is directed; and it can stimulate 
healthy responses in persons at a distance who may view it 
only obliquely."
There have been a number of studies undertaken which 
demonstrate the positive effects of kindness on health 
(both psychological and physiological). Further studies are 
under way, and several books have been published on the
beneficial effects of kindness. Studies undertaken since 
1988 are described in detail in The Healing Power of 
Doing Good (Fawcett Columbine, 1991) written by 
Allan Luks and Peggy Payne. Luks often noticed feelings 
of pleasure and well being while involved in helping others. 
Initially thinking it was something he alone experienced, 
he began to hear from others about the pleasurable 
feelings associated with helping. This prompted him to 
investigate further into "this intriguing phenomenon that 
seemed to have almost magical effects".
The benefits mentioned in his book are as follows:
  • A more optimistic and happier outlook on life
  • A heightened sense of well being
  • A sense of exhilaration and euphoria
  • An increase in energy
  • A feeling of being healthy
  • Decreased feelings of loneliness, depression and helplessness
  • A sense of connectedness with others
  • A greater sense of calmness and relaxation
  • Increased longevity
  • Better weight control
  • An improvement in insomnia
  • A stronger immune system
  • A reduction in pain
  • Increased body warmth
  • A healthier cardiovascular system (reduction of high blood pressure, improved circulation, reduced coronary disease)
  • A reduction of excessive stomach acid
  • A decrease of oxygen requirement
  • Relief from arthritis and asthma
  • Speedier recovery from surgery
  • Reduced cancer activity
The above list would put a snake oil salesman to shame, yet the 
effects have been proven many times over. Pearsall was not 
exaggerating when he referred to the effects of kindness as having 
"immense immune and healing benefits".
One of the participants in Luks’ survey stated the following: 
"Some months ago I was so stressed out that I could barely 
get four hours sleep at night, and I had all sorts of aches and pains. 
I had even tried antidepressant and antianxiety drugs, but to no avail. 
I then found out first hand that it is love that truly heals. When I 
do nice things for others, I definitely feel a physical response. For me 
it is mostly a relaxation of muscles that I hadn’t even realized 
had been tensed. I can now sleep well at night, and most of my 
aches and pains have disappeared."
People who are aware of the beneficial effects of kindness use 
it to keep their health conditions under control. Kindness is 
being utilised to keep high blood pressure in check, to banish 
headaches, relieve back pain, and subdue the pain of lupus 
and arthritis, while others use it to cure a case of the blues. 
Why would helping others have such beneficial effects? Partly 
because helping takes our mind off our problems (i.e. reduces stress) 
and gets us thinking about someone else.
Dr Herbert Benson, a Harvard cardiologist who has been 
involved in scientific research for over 30 years (he is also an 
author, his most well known book being The Relaxation Response), 
tells us that when we help others it allows us to ‘forget one’s self’ 
Another reason is that when we carry out an act of kindness, our 
body rewards us by creating a ‘feel good’ sensation, which boosts 
self esteem and well being. This experience has been termed the 
helper’s high. The response is triggered when the body manufactures chemicals called endorphins.These endorphins are naturally occurring morphine-like substances that create a feeling of bliss within us. 
In addition to creating a feel good experience, they also help to reduce the intensity of any pain messages being sent to the brain.
We must assume that one of our basic purposes on planet Earth 
is to be kind. Why else would our body reward us every time we help someone? As Pearsall tells us, "In concrete terms, there seems to be a biological reward for doing the right thing".
It is not necessary to carry out major acts of kindness to gain the health 
benefit. In fact it has been found that brief, small, regular acts of kindness 
lead to the highest levels of well being. It has also been found that 
such small, pleasurable experiences can more than offset any 
negative health effects brought about by life’s stressful events, 
regardless of their magnitude. This will be good news to those 
of us who worry about the ramifications of the day to day 
negative conflicts in our lives. If we happily punctuate our 
day with small acts of kindness, our health will be in good shape!
Paul Pearsall’s warning about the lack of joy in our lives 
was mentioned earlier. What is the cause of this lack of joy? 
According to Pearsall it is the inability to control our destiny 
and the feeling of vulnerability that this brings, as well as an 
inability to realise that our physical ills and social ills are related. 
What is the answer? To reconnect with ourselves, the earth, 
and those around us.
When you choose to become a kinder person, you are not only 
improving the well being and health of yourself and those you 
come into contact with. Your kindness has a ripple effect. It has the magical ability of causing even those who have witnessed the act to 
spontaneously feel good. When you make the decision to 
be a kinder person, you are effectively bringing about positive 
social change.
As previously indicated, the act of giving, or being of service, 
showing kindness, altruism, or any of the other names by 
which it is known, has the ability to achieve powerful health 
benefits. The beneficial effects from kind acts come from the 
bonding to a fellow human being, no matter how fleeting that contact 
may be. However, care needs to be taken not to expect some form 
of outcome from the kind act, otherwise the benefits to the given 
will be diminished or lost completely. If an outcome is not expected, 
there will be no disappointment. For instance, if I were to let a car 
in from a side street, expecting the driver to acknowledge my kind act, 
and it didn’t happen, it could conceivably provoke rage if I were 
that way inclined. If I am not expecting a positive reaction, and 
I get one, then that’s a bonus. When I expect others to play by 
my rules, I’m setting myself up for disappointment.
Kindness is not only something that has positive benefits for 
ourselves, it is something that has a positive effect on the community. 
Allan Luks states, "The new knowledge about [the beneficial
effects of] helping others holds the power to affect not only the 
health of the individual, but the health of our entire, tension-ridden 
society".
Reprinted from http://www.kindness.com.au/kindness_and_health.htm
©June 1999.


Join the Kindness Revolution!





1 comment:

TransplantBuddies Around the World said...

Hello Lynn

I enjoyed reading your blog about Paul Pearsall, Ph.D I greatly appreciate being reminded of acts of kindness. You can never go wrong with being kind to others. Expectations of acts in return negate the entire process. We do good because we want to not because we want something in return.

I believe Paul Pearsall also wrote about Cellular Memory regarding tranpslant patients. Since I had a double lung transplant, his name rings a bell. I love to rely on my memory without looking things up sometimes and then find I was correct. I guess that is my way of being kind to myself by relying on my confidence?

I help people daily on my website http://transplantbuddies.org when I receive compliments of appreciation from our members, it turns my entire day around. One compliment can take an aching back and take away the pain and the endorphins certainly can make me forget about the pain. LOL

I look forward to reading your book! Keep on writing. You certainly have a special gift to share with the world.

All the best,
Rise'

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