Being kind is ‘better than botox’. Dr David Hamilton, Women’s Fitness magazine, May 2010

Be kind to yourself is the second example of a maxim that I live my life by. The first, I discussed last time: With great power comes great responsibility.

I was delighted to read an article that expounded the benefits of being kind. Dr David Hamilton, writing in Women’s Fitness magazine, carried out extensive research on the health benefits of being kind. He records that researchers discovered in the 1960’s that there was barely an incident of heart disease in the small town, Roseto in Pennsylvania, USA. (The so-called ‘Roseto Effect’, as it came to be known.) Smoking and poor diet existed in this town as much as any other town in the USA so there had to be other factors involved that resulted in the extremely low incidents of heart conditions. What the researchers discovered was that there was a very high incidence of people helping one another. Not only that but the manner in which they helped one another and also the general demeanour of the people living there was one of genuine joy, support for each other and contentment.

Dr Hamilton’s research eventually concluded that showing genuine kindness to others and yourself resulted in the release of a hormone called oxytocin and it is this hormone that has such a strong, healthy benefit upon the heart resulting in lower blood pressure and a heart more resistant to damage. Other benefits also include a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles, as a result of the increased free radical production (2008 Australian study). Not only that, if the benefits above weren’t sufficient reasons alone to show kindness, but being kind also results in structural changes in the brain rewiring it to become more capable of acts of kindness, forgiveness and compassion. The brain’s neuroplasticity – its ability to mould or rewire to new ways of thinking and therefore behaviour – is one of the most incredible recent facts that scientists are discovering about our minds. Whatever we think about, our minds are moulded towards that thinking and its plasticity towards related concepts increases as well. In one German study patients were asked to learn to juggle. The resultant outcomes were not only that they were able to juggle but that they were more capable of other visual skills as well as greater spacial awareness skills. (There are aways two sides to a coin, though. If we choose to think about unhelpful things then our minds mould themselves towards those beliefs and concepts and we start to live out the resultant behaviours. If you want to break that way of thinking and remould your mind towards more helpful beliefs contact me and I will help you.)

In conclusion, showing acts of kindness results in rewiring of the mind inclining us towards greater acts of forgiveness, kindness and compassion towards one another and ourselves. It strengthens the heart and results in fewer lines on our face! Are there any downsides to this? Just one; however, it’s a significant one. If the acts of kindness towards ourselves or one another are done out of a sense of duty: a ‘got to’ attitude then the production of the hormone oxytocin doesn’t occur and therefore the health benefits are absent. In fact, far more likely will be the release of stress hormones resulting in many undesired outcomes in the long-term: the opposite to the ones referred to above.

The key then is to show kindness because I want to and not because I have to. And there lies the point for me. I want to show kindness; I don’t have to: I want to.

So, where shall I start? My suggestion would be to start with being kind to yourself. Isn’t that self-centred, I hear you say? That depends upon how you interpret the sentence. To show kindness to myself is to recognise when it’s appropriate to say yes to others and myself and when it’s appropriate to say no to others and myself. When it’s right to give your time and when going to bed and sleeping would serve me best (like it did last night). I won’t be able to show kindness to others anything like as much as I want to (and God wants me to) if I don’t show kindness to myself. For me, I love God, I love others and I love myself and I believe that I hold them in the best balance that they can be, with God’s help. I am free to say yes; I am free to say no. What defines when yes or no is said is what it would give me if I said either. I might not always get it right; however, it has served me well on the vast majority of occasions. Would saying yes (or no) be kind to myself? Am I helping others and myself out of obligation and a ‘have to’ mentality or am I acting out of genuine love for others and myself? For some of us, saying no is an alien concept and we don’t feel free to say no. I would encourage us all to learn to say no. Not necessarily with equal measure; rather, a healthy balance of yes and no. If we are genuinely free then we are free to say yes or no. Here, at Powerchange, we can help you to say no (or maybe to say yes!) by helping you to understand where your self-worth truly lies. If you want to know more please do contact me.

The acts therefore that I do are, I believe, for the right reasons: I simply want to. The botox spin-offs for me are purely extras to the principal reason for doing so. Nevertheless, the benefits will then be there (I believe that’s the way God made us): how good is that?!

So, what would it be like to be kind to yourself and to be kind to others? Not because you have to but because you want to. Dr Hamilton concluded in his research that being kind is ‘better than botox’. I think that that might be worth keeping an eye on, don’t you?

How will you be kind to yourself today?