Loving Kindness: Live Healthier and Happier

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!

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!

REPLY

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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@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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@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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@jenniferhunter You painted a wonderful experience with your words! I loved reading this first thing today. While the only instrument I can play is my own voice, my sisters played violin and flute as young people. How fun to set aside thoughts and just "be" for a moment, watching the joy of others coming together.
Ginger

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@hopeful33250

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

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Thanks, Teresa. I had so much fun. I have performed music for a number of years with a concert band because I used to play the organ and I could translate that into playing the mallet keyboard instruments like xylophone and glockenspiel. I never learned to read the bass clef, but in playing the organ, I could put the chord under the melody and roll it while my right hand played the written notes. I could also add some of the chord notes into the melody, keeping the top note as the original note. I admire people who can play a different melody with each hand at the same time, and who can embellish the notes with trills and flourishes, and to be able to do this spontaneously is a gift.

This piano player plays by ear, and figures out what key to start with when he hears someone sing their song, and he can alter what he does to match the singer. One of his friends wanted to sing "The Rose", so he pulled up the lyrics for her on a laptop, and she sang while he played. It was so nice to be right next to them enjoying that.

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@gingerw

@jenniferhunter You painted a wonderful experience with your words! I loved reading this first thing today. While the only instrument I can play is my own voice, my sisters played violin and flute as young people. How fun to set aside thoughts and just "be" for a moment, watching the joy of others coming together.
Ginger

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Ginger, thank you. The voice is a lovely instrument. Listening to someone who can sing beautifully accapella is wonderful. I sang in a church choir for awhile. I find singing helps me feel good and lifts my spirits, and anyone can do this. Like the line from the Carpenter's song… "Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear… just sing…sing a song….."

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@jenniferhunter, I love listening to anyone playing the piano and especially when I am at the Gonda building in the atrium area. Although I didn't see this one in person it has been one of my favorites.

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@johnbishop

@jenniferhunter, I love listening to anyone playing the piano and especially when I am at the Gonda building in the atrium area. Although I didn't see this one in person it has been one of my favorites.

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John, I love that! How fun, and you made me laugh. Thanks!

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@johnbishop What fun! Thanks.

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@jenniferhunter

Ginger, thank you. The voice is a lovely instrument. Listening to someone who can sing beautifully accapella is wonderful. I sang in a church choir for awhile. I find singing helps me feel good and lifts my spirits, and anyone can do this. Like the line from the Carpenter's song… "Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear… just sing…sing a song….."

Jump to this post

@jenniferhunter

I love that Carpenter's song, it's one of my favorites! I had vocal cord surgery several years ago to deal with a paralyzed vocal cord and after that a speech therapist suggested that I sing as part of a plan to keep my vocal cords strong. So I joined a therapy choir. As you have interest in the arts as way of healing you might enjoy this information about Therapy Choirs of Michigan, http://therapychoirs.org/

Here is an article from a local newspaper about one of the exceptional members of the choir, Gary Francis, https://www.hometownlife.com/story/opinion/columnists/2017/08/09/inspiration-look-farmington-hills-listen-singing/104370448/ I assist Gary is getting "gigs" at local softball games where he sings the National Anthem and at assited living facilities where he sings the oldies music (and the residents sing with him). I call myself his agent, however, there is no money involved, just the fun of helping.

Gary Francis is an exceptional example of someone who is singing for the health of it~

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@hopeful33250

@jenniferhunter

I love that Carpenter's song, it's one of my favorites! I had vocal cord surgery several years ago to deal with a paralyzed vocal cord and after that a speech therapist suggested that I sing as part of a plan to keep my vocal cords strong. So I joined a therapy choir. As you have interest in the arts as way of healing you might enjoy this information about Therapy Choirs of Michigan, http://therapychoirs.org/

Here is an article from a local newspaper about one of the exceptional members of the choir, Gary Francis, https://www.hometownlife.com/story/opinion/columnists/2017/08/09/inspiration-look-farmington-hills-listen-singing/104370448/ I assist Gary is getting "gigs" at local softball games where he sings the National Anthem and at assited living facilities where he sings the oldies music (and the residents sing with him). I call myself his agent, however, there is no money involved, just the fun of helping.

Gary Francis is an exceptional example of someone who is singing for the health of it~

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Teresa, that is so cool! I looked at the links you posted. I was using music and singing as therapy before my spine surgery to get past the fear of it. I learned to lower my blood pressure with breathing slow in time to the music, and singing does that too. I sometimes woke up in the middle of the night and put on my headphones and would sing. In the past I performed with a concert band, and we would do free concerts during the holiday season in nursing homes and I know we brought joy to people which made me feel great. When we visited my father in law with Alzheimers's in a nursing home, he sang Jingle Bells to us which I loved. It wasn't something he normally would have done, but the staff had worked with him, and he was so proud to sing it for us. Those are nice memories. All that speaks to the power of music. FYI- I love that song too.

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@jenniferhunter

Teresa, that is so cool! I looked at the links you posted. I was using music and singing as therapy before my spine surgery to get past the fear of it. I learned to lower my blood pressure with breathing slow in time to the music, and singing does that too. I sometimes woke up in the middle of the night and put on my headphones and would sing. In the past I performed with a concert band, and we would do free concerts during the holiday season in nursing homes and I know we brought joy to people which made me feel great. When we visited my father in law with Alzheimers's in a nursing home, he sang Jingle Bells to us which I loved. It wasn't something he normally would have done, but the staff had worked with him, and he was so proud to sing it for us. Those are nice memories. All that speaks to the power of music. FYI- I love that song too.

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Yes, music has great power. In the therapy choir I've heard nonverbal people sing solos but not speak. Really quite amazing, @jenniferhunter

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