Make your world a happier, healthier place, with help from our columnist Jayney Goddard
As we enter this new year, I’ve been thinking long and hard about writing something that would genuinely make a profound difference to your health, happiness and youthful longevity. I wanted this advice to be practical, quick and enjoyable and, importantly, based upon robust scientific research so that you know that it works. I also wanted to give you something that will make a massive, measurable impact, not just on you, but upon wider society as a whole – so that we can begin to make 2020 the year where we individuals make a huge difference in the greater scheme of things.
So, without further ado, I’d love to share some information with you about the vast impact that loving kindness, sociability and compassion have upon our lives directly – and how this can ‘ripple out’ to deeply impact our wider environments.
You may recall me writing about the way that socialisation can actually add up to nine healthy years to our life-span. We can reap even more benefits by adding loving kindness practices to our social interactions. Clearly, it is beneficial for us all to have close personal relationships, but even those interactions we have on a day-to-day basis with people we see more causally help immensely too.
One of the most effective ways to tap into the incredible anti-ageing power of loving kindness is to approach social interactions with an attitude of:
Research shows that when we come from a mindset of unconditional kindness we are impacted deeply – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. When we are able to embrace feel-good emotions, our thinking becomes much more creative, integrative and flexible, and we are more open to information. The added bonus is that the benefits of acts and interactions of kindness and compassion touch everybody: the giver, the receiver and even witnesses. This is the ‘ripple effect’ and demonstrates how one small act can affect so many people. In fact, just reading about kindness can have a positive effect on our holistic health, even reducing chronic inflammation, which underlies every illness that we associate with ageing poorly.
Most of us innately sense that living a life filled with love, compassion and social support is likely to have health and wellbeing benefits, and scientific research now bears this out. You might think that it would be tough to study compassion scientifically, yet it is actually one of the fastest growing areas of research in the ‘positive psychology’ arena.
Some of the most well-known historic research into the area dates back to the late 1970s. Researchers at Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology) were studying the effects of a diet high in fat and cholesterol among rabbits. During the study, a rather strange anomaly became apparent: one subgroup of rabbits had 60 percent less atherosclerosis than the group as a whole, even though they were all eating exactly the same diet. Nobody could figure out why this was, until it emerged that the lab assistant who fed and cared for this particular group of rabbits took them out of their cages, petted them and talked to them kindly before feeding. The study was repeated twice with the same results and was reported in the esteemed journal Science in 1980.
Studies on humans have proven how important it is for our health and longevity to live in a loving, nurturing environment, where positive thoughts are likely to flourish. For example, in the 1990s, a group of researchers in the USA revisited an earlier well-known study that had been conducted among nuns who had written short personal essays about their lives as part of a linguistic study. The results, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2001, revealed that the nuns who had expressed the highest number of positive emotions about their life circumstances lived 10 years longer and were also somewhat protected from Alzheimer’s disease.
To put the notion of more loving kindness into action in everyday life, have a think about what you can do to help someone today – and throughout the year. Here are some ideas to get you started…
Lastly, visit JayneyGoddard.org where you’ll be able to access some of the gifts I have created for you, including my latest loving kindness ‘Metta’ meditation download. Do let me know how you get on with it. Here’s to a happy, healthy and kind 2020!
Jayney Goddard is President of The Complementary Medical Association (The CMA) and the author of Rewind Your Body Clock: The Complete Natural Guide to a Happier, Healthier, Younger You. Visit jayneygoddard.org for more information.
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