Kindness gives us healthier hearts. It also strengthens our immune system, reduces aches and pains, makes us happier, and boosts energy and strength in elderly people. Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth, which produces oxytocin in the brain and throughout the body. This chemical is responsible for creating a sense of well-being and connection. Of recent interest is its significant effect on the cardiovascular system. Oxytocin causes the release of nitric oxide in blood vessels, which expands them, reducing blood pressure. Thus oxytocin is known as a ‘cardio-protective’ hormone.
Kindness also slows aging. On a biochemical level, aging is a combination of many things, but two culprits that speed the process are free radicals and inflammation, both of which can result from unhealthy lifestyle choices. Remarkable research now shows that oxytocin reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system, thus slowing aging. Free radicals and inflammation also play a major role in heart disease. So kindness is very good for your heart and for your overall health!
Using the Tibetan Buddhist loving-kindness meditation, one study found that kindness and compassion did, in fact, reduce inflammation in the body, most likely due to its effects on the vagus nerve. One simple practice you can perform to stimulate the vagus nerve, and slow heart rate at the same time lowering blood pressure, is deep diaphragmatic breathing with long, slow exhalations.
At Massage Therapy Center Palo Alto, we encourage you to get massaged frequently. Caring touch stimulates the release of oxytocin. And when you use your attention to mindfully slow down and give length to your breathing while you are getting worked on, you double the benefits of your bodywork session. Bring loving-kindness to your heart and nervous system!