Monthly Archives: May 2012

It’s nice to be nice but also good for us!

I am giving a talk tonight in Monaghan. I was invited by the Monaghan Volunteer Centre. A large crowd is expected and it’s all free. I’m doing it for free. The tea/coffee and refreshments are free. No admission at the door!! Monaghan Volunteer Centre are trying to promote a spirit of volunteering within the community. I decided on the title  ‘It’s nice to be nice but also good for us!’ because I wanted to emphasise the health benefits of compassion. We really need to harness kindness within families and communities during these challenging times. Many people are suffering. We need to reach out to them.

Latest science is suggesting that the most powerful way of becoming happy is to develop compassion. We need to become aware of the great value of compassion for our own and others happiness. Applying practical methods in our daily lives would be so worthwhile.

A biological basis for compassion has been established. Compassion seems to be an innate human response embedded into the fold of our brains. Research and analysis of brain activity after compassionate thoughts and deeds show that our brains change. MRI scans of Tibetan monks show substantial activation of the left frontal lobe – an area associated with compassion. They dedicate themselves to daily compassionate meditation. Brain imaging has also shown significant change as a consequence to committing acts of kindness – triggering activity in the caudate and anterior areas – the areas associated with pleasure. Oxytocin levels elevate through compassion – even through visualising compassionate acts – or watching compassionate acts in movies.

By helping others we create a very healthy social connectedness that promotes good mental health. Indeed there is lots and lots of new research which confirms that by practicing kindness lowers depression and anxiety levels. People who volunteer also live longer, have greater life satisfaction and very significant positive health outcomes. It’s nice to be nice but also good for us – and for others too! Kindness is contagious and we need to spread as much of it around as possible during these troubling times!