Hundreds of studies across the globe have shown that people who cultivate generosity, compassion, kindness and forgiveness will live longer, healthier and happier lives. The bottom line is that all these traits will protect you from ill health just as much as aspirin protects you from heart disease.
Here’s how it works:
Practise generosity: many studies have shown giving, rather than receiving is a good predictor of future wellbeing. Generosity and compassion improve your mood, your physical health and even your longevity. Whether it is giving your time as a volunteer or making financial donations, being a giver rather than a receiver is much better for your overall wellbeing. Giving starts in the brain, with what is known as the ‘giver’s glow” and it stimulates several different happiness chemicals, including dopamine that makes you feel happy and oxytocin which gives a sense of tranquillity and inner calm. It’s never too late to start being generous in life and to appreciate that generosity is contagious and inspires others to be big-hearted.
Be grateful: we are more prosperous than previous generations but happiness really goes beyond having material successes. You can find gratitude in small ways: write down three things you are grateful every night before going to bed, appreciate others, and don’t sweat the small stuff- always keep the big picture in mind. One study has shown that being grateful for all of five minutes is linked to a state of resonance during which your heart rate, blood pressure and brain rhythm synchronise to work the body more efficiently.
Show compassion: compassion motivates you to go out of your way to help others. It is a powerful force that replaces judgement with acceptance and treats everyone as equals. Practise compassion because in doing so will feel more energised and uplifted. Compassionate acts release oxytocin in your brain which researchers believe boosts immunity. Increased compassion is related to increased happiness and decreased depression.
Always forgive: Showing forgiveness can alleviate depression, boost your mood and reduce anger. Living with resentment on the other hand can cause toxic stress and that is why refusing to forgive is so bad for you. A high level of chronic anger is associated with a high risk of ill health. Hostile people usually have much poorer health outcomes.
Practise self-respect: people who respect themselves and others generate tolerance, civility and acceptance, which boosts health protection. Self-respect means knowing what you stand for, what your values are and accepting yourself and others. Healthy self-respect enables you to have the confidence to set firm boundaries. Self- respect is a positive emotion that has countless health benefits for your mind and body.
Show courage: showing courage will boost your self-respect. It gives you the power to follow your path in life and is also a commitment to upholding your values. Being emotionally courageous not only helps you survive in difficult situations; it also helps you thrive.