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Loving Kindness: Live Healthier and Happier

Posted by @hopeful33250, Thu, Nov 8 5:35am

I received a Mayo Clinic email newsletter and I just wanted to share this article with you all.

How sharing kindness can make you healthier & happier. Can simply sharing kindness on a regular basis help your health? Research says yes, in more ways than you might guess.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You've heard the uplifting stories: Passersby dropping scads of cash into charity collection buckets or anonymous donors paying off hospital bills for strangers. And people helping victims during storms and natural disasters. These acts of kindness make everybody feel good.

There's a science behind that phenomenon called "loving kindness." And research shows that learning and practicing loving kindness can profoundly affect your attitude, outlook and even your health.

Better yet, you can rewire your brain to be more present and kinder to others, giving your mood a daily boost. These three simple practices will help get you started.

1. Loving-kindness meditation (LKM). LKM is a quiet, contemplative practice that focuses thought on your heart region and encourages warm, tender thoughts, possibly about a loved one. In one study, people who practiced LKM an hour a week felt greater positive emotions — love, contentment, joy — while interacting with others.

Documented health benefits of practicing LKM include:

Reduced pain and tension from migraines
Reduced symptoms of depression
Possibly slowing the aging process. Studies have found that women who practice LKM have longer telomeres, which are like little end-caps on your DNA. Shorter telomeres have been associated with faster aging.
Maybe the best news is that even small doses of LKM can help. One study found that a 10-minute session of LKM increased feelings of social connection and positive feelings toward others.

2. Acts of kindness. This one's so simple: Intentionally set a goal to be kinder to others. Express sincerely felt kindness to a co-worker. Make a special effort to extend kind words to a neighbor. Hold the elevator for someone or take time to help a loved one.

As you spread your kindness, you might just experience what research has confirmed: Generosity can be contagious.

Why? The act of helping others actually activates the part of your brain that makes you feel pleasure. It also releases a hormone called oxytocin that helps modulate social interactions and emotion — the higher your oxytocin levels, the more generous you may be.

Food for thought: Reportedly, one person in Winnipeg, Manitoba, picked up the tab for the next car in line at a coffee-and-sandwich drive-through. This inspired the next person to do to the same. The chain continued for an astonishing 226 customers!

Seems like research supports the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The kinder you act toward others, the better you will feel.

3. Focus on gratitude. Do you feel grateful for the good things in your life? If not, it's time to start.

Researchers have found that feelings of thankfulness can help improve sleep, diminish fatigue, increase confidence and even lessen depression. One way to increase your feelings of gratitude is to start journaling.

Keeping a gratitude journal — just writing down things you're grateful for — has been found to actually improve biological markers that indicate heart health. Don't want to carry a notebook? There are plenty of phone apps that can help you express gratitude or share happy moments.

Like anything else, engaging in loving kindness gets easier with practice. Try thinking positive thoughts about people in your life. Write down the things you're grateful for this week. Set aside 10 minutes to meditate. You may just find a happier, healthier you.

As all of you have shown much kindness and caring for each other, I knew you would appreciate these thoughts and that you would have great stories about kindness. So, let's take some time to share!

Could you share how you practice a loving kindness meditation? Is it through your art, your words, phone calls or notes that you write to others?
Will you share Acts of Kindness that you have either received or given?
Gratitude: How do you focus on gratitude? Do you keep a journal, do you acknowledge gratitude when you see and hear it in action?

I can't wait to hear your thoughts!

REPLY

@hopeful33250 This is a lovely post, Teresa. What a nice way to talk about this. This is what I try to do everyday here on Connect when I reach out to others. I can also tell you about the years I spent volunteering at a YMCA swim program for disabled children and adults. I was a lifeguard there, and they never had enough help in the swim & gym program for kids, so I volunteered. That felt so good to make a difference for kids who couldn't communicate well, and to finally be able to gain their trust and watch them learn was wonderful. I brought my dad into the program, and he took it over as his own and for 25 years ran the class every Sat morning and added the adult class on Fri nights. I learned compassion and how grateful I am for my life, and empathy for those who struggled with how to function physically and mentally, but when we found common ground and played together in the pool, it was joyful. We all got some exercise benefits as well as the human emotional connection. I learned how to communicate non verbally.

You never know what another person may be struggling with, and having this kind of experience reminds you that your outlook has a lot to do with your well being. Some of the kids always lived in the moment of pure joy in just being there and were never trapped into thinking about their limitations; they only saw potential and looked for fun things to do next. This was their moment to shine and that made a difference in their lives in the way they interacted with other people outside of the class. Some were distant or stubborn, uncooperative, but after coming to class for awhile, their outlook changed for the better. Some went on to the Special Olympics. The adults because life long friends of my parents and they got together outside of the Y. I learned what it was like for someone with MS, brain injuries, and Downs Syndrome. Later in life, my dad had a brain injury, and I was better able to understand because of my past experiences. I was his caregiver.

My dad was recognized locally with awards from some service organizations, and there were newspaper stories about his class, and we were invited to award banquets. At one of these luncheons, I had the pleasure of meeting astronaut, John Glen. The newspaper photographer was there, so our pictures are in the story with John Glen about the event. You never know where one act of kindness could lead. You can change lives and the ripples can spread far and wide from the one pebble that you dropped into that stream.

Great examples of kindness, @jenniferhunter, thanks for sharing those experiences~

Thanks for creating this discussion Teresa. This was kind of humorous at the time but looking back after reading this article brought a smile on my face. My bride and I had just finished a lunch date after church at Famous Dave's BBQ and needed to grab a few grocery items at Hy-Vee before heading home. As usual, my wife drifted off in the store away from me — she's just too fast to keep up with and I like to look around. Well, I had just made a left turn with my cart to go down an isle looking for distilled water for the CPAP machine when a lady younger than myself had started passing on my right with her cart. I moved my cart out of the way and smiled at her. She smiled back and said your shirt has really made my day! I was wearing one of my light blue flowered Kamp shirts with ships and planes on it. I thanked her for making my day also. Then she winked and said "random acts of kindness" – everyone needs them. I gave her another smile and thanked her again.

So, yes indeed, it did make my day better and I'm a big believer in random acts of kindness.

@johnbishop

Delightful story about random acts of kindness!

@hopeful33250 – when my kids were about 1 and 2 years old, I was picking up some milk and eggs in the refrigerated cabinet at Kwik Trip's convenience store when a lady I didn't know handed me a Kwik Trip gift card, saying it was Random Acts of Kindness Day and that I looked like I could use it. What I understood it to mean is that she saw a mom of two tiny kids who likely lived a harried life and would be blessed by having someone do something nice for her. I was quite surprised to find out it was for $20. This made me really want to look out for opportunities to do nice things for others.

@lisalucier

@hopeful33250 – when my kids were about 1 and 2 years old, I was picking up some milk and eggs in the refrigerated cabinet at Kwik Trip's convenience store when a lady I didn't know handed me a Kwik Trip gift card, saying it was Random Acts of Kindness Day and that I looked like I could use it. What I understood it to mean is that she saw a mom of two tiny kids who likely lived a harried life and would be blessed by having someone do something nice for her. I was quite surprised to find out it was for $20. This made me really want to look out for opportunities to do nice things for others.

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@lisalucier
Thanks for sharing that, Lisa. I especially like your last sentence, "This made me really want to look out for opportunities to do nice things for others."
So, perhaps we can surmise that random acts of kindness is contagious!
Anyone else have a story to share?

Random acts of kindness are fun and do help boost the spirits. It is the doing so without another/others knowing that gives me the smile.

I so agree with you, @parus! Quiet and/or anonymous acts of kindness go a long way to making the world a kinder, gentler place. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have the world revolve on an axis of kindness? Something to consider.

I'm not sure how I missed this post but glad to have found it this morning. Thank you to all of the people who have replied already and thank you to the original poster @hopeful33250 Looking for ways to practice little acts of kindness has become second nature to me now, finding that just a small thing can really change my attitude, making me smile. Just last night I was at a gathering new to me, and there was a gal with a knee cart. The kind you have to scoot along with your leg bent because you have an issue with knee or ankle. She was changing her location within the restaurant and struggling with everything. While others continued their conversations around her, I moved over from many feet away and took most of the things that she had, following her along to the new spot. This let her maneuver how she needed to and set up so she was comfortable. I think the idea of treating others the way you would like to be treated [the Golden Rule] is what came into play. She seemed so surprised and a little disappointed that no one else around her very close to her even thought to interrupt their conversations to assist her. Being present in the moment gave me a lift.
Ginger

@gingerw

I'm not sure how I missed this post but glad to have found it this morning. Thank you to all of the people who have replied already and thank you to the original poster @hopeful33250 Looking for ways to practice little acts of kindness has become second nature to me now, finding that just a small thing can really change my attitude, making me smile. Just last night I was at a gathering new to me, and there was a gal with a knee cart. The kind you have to scoot along with your leg bent because you have an issue with knee or ankle. She was changing her location within the restaurant and struggling with everything. While others continued their conversations around her, I moved over from many feet away and took most of the things that she had, following her along to the new spot. This let her maneuver how she needed to and set up so she was comfortable. I think the idea of treating others the way you would like to be treated [the Golden Rule] is what came into play. She seemed so surprised and a little disappointed that no one else around her very close to her even thought to interrupt their conversations to assist her. Being present in the moment gave me a lift.
Ginger

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I so appreciate hearing of your gift of kindness to this lady, @gingerw. You said something very important in your last sentence:

"Being present in the moment gave me a lift."

Could it be that the act of being present in the moment just be the key to practicing loving kindness? If we are always distracted by our electronics or our own thoughts, we miss these moments to practice kindness.

@hopeful33250 No doubt it is a major factor. I am not someone who is glued to my phone all the time, and am always watching my surroundings due to my sensory issues and other things. So I am always more aware of my immediate environment than most people, and it creates a positive environment to do these little acts of kindness. It's gotten so it is second nature now, isn't that great!
Ginger

@gingerw

@hopeful33250 No doubt it is a major factor. I am not someone who is glued to my phone all the time, and am always watching my surroundings due to my sensory issues and other things. So I am always more aware of my immediate environment than most people, and it creates a positive environment to do these little acts of kindness. It's gotten so it is second nature now, isn't that great!
Ginger

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Yes, it is great, @gingerw. Your sensory issues have a very positive impact in the community you live in! How good you can see that bonus.

Thank you all for helping me through a very difficult time dealing with depression. Your stories and positive thoughts and suggestions have definitely brought sunshine to me!

I just visited Mayo and made a new friend who is a volunteer who plays the piano in the lobby of the Gonda building. When I arrived, I heard lovely melodies in that space and I sat down and listened. After awhile, I moved to the closest chair next to the piano so I could watch him play. I told him how much I was enjoying his music, and he asked me what I would like for him to play, and I said "Sunshine". He asked me to sing, and people around joined in, and so did I.

As he played, there was a lady dancing by herself and twirling around and she saw me watching her and she invited me to dance with her. On the next song, I got up from my chair and we joined hands and circled around like little kids smiling and laughing…then an older lady came close and watched us with a look of joy on her face, so I invited her to join us and I took her hand. All 3 of us circled and twirled around and everyone was watching us. After that a few people came to the piano to sing, so I sang on "Edelweiss" (from The Sound of Music) and the audience grew and it ended with applause. A few more songs and singing followed before the piano player took a break.

It was like being a child again and spinning around and singing for the pure joy of it. The people passing by headed to their appointments let that joy into their hearts and some stayed and watched our circle….savoring the experience. All of it was so spontaneous, and I was surprised myself. It's easy to walk around thinking that you can't do something like this that attracts attention, and I thought I was just going to be a spectator, but I gave myself permission to enjoy myself and play…. to just enjoy myself and not worry about what anyone was thinking.

I visited the lobby several more times between my appointments and I met more of the people who knew my new friend, and he introduced them to me. Kindness is something to give away that becomes a gift that is given again and again. The music touched my heart and was there to give us a space to exist other than where we think we are. Now, I feel inspired to find my music books and practice so next time, I'll be able to sit at the piano and play freely as if no one else is listening.

Piano hands

@jenniferhunter

I just visited Mayo and made a new friend who is a volunteer who plays the piano in the lobby of the Gonda building. When I arrived, I heard lovely melodies in that space and I sat down and listened. After awhile, I moved to the closest chair next to the piano so I could watch him play. I told him how much I was enjoying his music, and he asked me what I would like for him to play, and I said "Sunshine". He asked me to sing, and people around joined in, and so did I.

As he played, there was a lady dancing by herself and twirling around and she saw me watching her and she invited me to dance with her. On the next song, I got up from my chair and we joined hands and circled around like little kids smiling and laughing…then an older lady came close and watched us with a look of joy on her face, so I invited her to join us and I took her hand. All 3 of us circled and twirled around and everyone was watching us. After that a few people came to the piano to sing, so I sang on "Edelweiss" (from The Sound of Music) and the audience grew and it ended with applause. A few more songs and singing followed before the piano player took a break.

It was like being a child again and spinning around and singing for the pure joy of it. The people passing by headed to their appointments let that joy into their hearts and some stayed and watched our circle….savoring the experience. All of it was so spontaneous, and I was surprised myself. It's easy to walk around thinking that you can't do something like this that attracts attention, and I thought I was just going to be a spectator, but I gave myself permission to enjoy myself and play…. to just enjoy myself and not worry about what anyone was thinking.

I visited the lobby several more times between my appointments and I met more of the people who knew my new friend, and he introduced them to me. Kindness is something to give away that becomes a gift that is given again and again. The music touched my heart and was there to give us a space to exist other than where we think we are. Now, I feel inspired to find my music books and practice so next time, I'll be able to sit at the piano and play freely as if no one else is listening.

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What a lovely story, @jenniferhunter . Thanks for sharing it.

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