embraced the good times, many folks were ready to move on to 2017. And like every new year, as 2017 begins to take shape, many of us make our expected New Year’s Resolutions: resolutions to work out more, eat better, get more sleep or learn a new skill.
These are noble goals, and I certainly strive for them all. But the top goal on my list is that I resolve to be more kind, especially after witnessing such a lack of kindness over the last year.
Being more kind doesn’t require me to wake up earlier, eat more vegetables, turn off the TV or even break a sweat. But it does take self-evaluation and reminding to make it a part of daily life, more so than many resolutions that find their way to my annual list. Sometimes it is easier to get angry and frustrated than it is to be
compassionate and kind. Case in point:
Recently, I was driving with my two sons to go skiing in Colorado.
While navigating through a small mountain town, we were cut off by an
elderly gentleman driving an older truck. I hit the brakes and laid on
the horn as my $4 cup of coffee spilled in my lap. I let an expletive
fly and conveyed to the driver that the “blind shouldn’t be allowed to
drive.” This, of course, didn’t go unnoticed by my children. My
wise-beyond-his-years 10-year-old reminded me maybe I was driving too
fast, and maybe it was my fault. My 13-year-old simply said, “Nice
Red-faced, I muffled a weak apology to my boys and drove on. For at least 30 minutes, I was irritated. At first, I was mad at the other driver; then, I was disappointed in my own behavior. I had let a relatively minor situation get under my skin. I put myself in the other driver’s shoes – was he late for something important or maybe the sun was in his eyes? Perhaps I was going too fast. The more I thought about the incident, the more I felt regret for my behavior.
Once again, I realized kindness matters and I needed to be more forgiving, slow to anger and less reactive. I also thought about the side effects of kindness for myself, my loved ones and mankind as a whole.
In recent years, scientists have been searching to understand how altruism – the desire to perform good deeds – affects our health. Fifty scientific studies funded by The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love looked at the effects of compassion, generosity, kindness and giving. Researchers found that those who did nice things
for others, even just opening a door, reaped several benefits from doing a good deed.
The good feeling we get when we perform an act of kindness is caused
by the release of the brain’s natural versions of morphine and heroin,
called endogenous opioids. These body-made opioids produce a natural high, often referred to as a “helper’s high.”
Kindness also improves relationships because it reduces the emotional distance between people and so we feel more bonded and safe. Our early ancestors had to learn to cooperate and be nice to one another as a means of survival. Today, kindness is still needed as part of a healthy family dynamic, work environment, community and world.
Kindness can also affect your physical health. David Hamilton, Ph.D., wrote about the health effects of kindness as they relate to heart health and aging. Acts of kindness are often accompanied by “emotional warmth.” Emotional warmth produces the hormone oxytocin, which plays a significant role in the cardiovascular system. Oxytocin causes the release of a nitric oxide in blood vessels, which expands the blood vessels, reducing blood pressure. Research also shows that oxytocin helps to reduce free radicals and inflammation, two of the primary
culprits in premature aging.
Finally, kindness is contagious. When we’re kind, we inspire others to be kind. Just as a pebble creates waves when it is dropped in a pond, so do acts of kindness ripple outward touching lives and inspiring more kindness.
Kindness isn’t always easy or our first response, but the effects of kindness on ourselves, loved ones and community are well worth the effort. FBN
By John Marvel, D.O.
John S. Marvel, D.O., is a board-certified anesthesiologist with Forest Country Anesthesia. He specializes in regional anesthesia and implementing computerized anesthesia information systems. He is a published author and a preceptor for medical students completing their anesthesia rotations. When not caring for patients, Dr. Marvel enjoys skiing, taekwondo, woodworking and being with his wife and three
Forest Country Anesthesia providers perform more than 16,000
anesthetic procedures each year in all areas of anesthesiology,
including cardiovascular, neurosurgery, obstetrics, orthopedics and
pediatrics, across five facilities in Northern Arizona. To learn more
about Dr. Marvel and Forest Country Anesthesia, visit
ForestCountryAnesthesia.com or call 928-773-2505.