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Living In A Greener Neighbourhood Could Lower Your Risk Of Death: Study

Not just parks but also streetside trees and lawns could have health benefits, study suggests

Trees stretching their canopies over city streets and grass tickling the sidewalk near your home are more than just pretty, they could actually be helping you live longer, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick used census and tax data to track 1.3 million non-immigrant Canadian adults living in the 30 biggest cities across the country, from Victoria to St. John’s, over 11 years starting in 2001. They measured the amount of greenery from trees, shrubs, grass and other plants within 250 metres (about two blocks) of the study subjects’ homes, using postal codes and satellite data. And they found that as the amount of greenery increased, people’s risk of death decreased “significantly” from natural causes.

“There was a lot bigger effect than I think any of us had been expecting,” said Dan Crouse, a health geographer and lead author of the study published this week in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health.

‘Really, just having trees around where people are living is really important.’
– Dan Crouse, University of New Brunswick

Using NASA’s Aqua satellite, the greenery was measured on a scale of 0 to 1. (Zero represented bare ground; 1 was complete coverage by dark green leafy plants.) The study found that each 0.15-point increase in greenness near the subjects’ homes was associated with an eight to 12 per cent decrease in the risk of death.

Crouse said the link between greenness and lower death rates remained even after researchers accounted for the effects of air pollution.

While previous studies have shown that exposure to green space and parks can improve mental health and in some cases physical health, the researchers say this is the first big study to show a clear link between green surroundings and a lower risk of death.

It also suggests that green spaces don’t have to be actual parks in order to have health benefits.

“What we’re able to show with this study is really just having trees around where people are living is really important,” Crouse said.

The study found that the positive effect of green surroundings was greater for people in middle age than in other age groups.

The effect was also greater among those with higher incomes and more education, and among men compared to women. The researchers aren’t sure why.

The study also couldn’t tell what kind of greenery was being measured, although trees gave a higher score than grass. Nor could it explain why exposure to greenery had that kind of effect — researchers didn’t know how much access people had to the green spaces or whether they were getting more exercise in greener areas, for example.

View of nature

But Crouse said there are benefits to living near green spaces such as golf courses even for people who don’t use them.

“That space is still representing an absence of traffic congestion, an absence of the noise and pollution from cars. It’s going to have a real cooling effect in an urban area,” he said. “Just having a view of nature from your window … can be restorative. There’s a lot of ways that the greenness could be benefiting your health.”

Dr. Gillian Booth is a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital who recently found that people who live in more walkable city neighbourhoods have lower rates of diabetes and obesity. She says the design of Crouse’s study looks sound, and she has used similar techniques in her own work.

She added that the results make her wonder what it is about green surroundings that are lowering death rates, and what threshold of greenness is needed to get those health benefits.

“Where do you draw the line and say there’s insufficient green space? And how much should you invest in it?” she said. “I think this is really exciting work in that it raises these types of questions.”

The study, she added, highlights that the way we design our communities can have a profound influence on residents’ health: “The potential reach is huge in terms of the number of people who could be benefiting from these health effects.”

By Emily Chung, Science and Technology Writer CBC News       Oct 12, 2017
source: www.cbc.ca
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10 Simple Ways To Bring Positive Energy Back Into Your Life

“The worst times can be the best if you think with positive energy.” 
– Domenico Dolce

Have you wondered what exactly is positive energy? According to Annie’s Hallmark, “Positive energy is the natural energy that supports life.  Ancients commonly referred to this energy as “chi” or “prana,” but today science refers to this as “vital force.”

Feeling low or negative is a normal thing that happens with all of the ups and downs that life has to offer. It can be easy to just wallow in those feelings, but we all hold the responsibility of bringing ourselves back from those negative feelings. Oftentimes, we tend to wait for positivity to happen to us, rather than learning how to bring positivity into our lives ourselves.

Dr. Judith Orloff, author of Positive Energy: Ten Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear Into Vibrance, Strength, and Love says, “We can’t stop the negative circumstances of our time–our cell phones will keep ringing, e-mails will keep coming, people will be rude, our children will be demanding, and bad things will happen in the world. But we can learn ways to protect our energy so that we can stay centered in dealing with the stresses that arise.”

Therefore, it’s important to know how to bring positive energy into your life so you can move forward as a better and brighter person.

HERE ARE 10 SIMPLE WAYS TO BRING BACK POSITIVE ENERGY INTO YOUR LIFE

1. KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED

This can be difficult, but it’s important to know what you need to bring yourself out of those negative feelings. It can be as simple as needing a support system, and then reaching out to friends and family. Or, maybe you need time away from a stressful situation. While it can be hard to know what it is we need out of life, learning to assess and figure it out is one of the first steps to bringing positive energy back into your life. As Buddha rightly pointed out, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.”

2. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE AND DON’T THINK ABOUT NEGATIVITY

We all know how difficult it is to not focus on negative energy. Switching your focus from the negativity in your life can be just what you need to start to overcome it. As Clifford Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford University pointed out, “Some people do have a more positive outlook, but almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail.”

Therefore, when something negative happens, you’ll want to focus all your energy on the badness of the situation. Instead, it’s time to start taking those negative things and learning to see the silver lining. Focus on all of the positive things about a bad situation that you can, and figure out how to fix the negative.

3. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF

Learning how to be honest with yourself is one of the things that many people struggle with, and it can take time to learn. But once you learn to be honest with yourself, you’re going to be a much happier and positive person, because you’ll be able to acknowledge the hard truths about both yourself and your negative situations. Once you learn to be honest with yourself, you can start making the changes that you want to make in yourself.

4. REMEMBER TO BREATHE!

It’s important to take a moment to breathe when you’re in the middle of a negative situation. We’re oftentimes so caught up with running around trying to fix everything that we get caught up and forget to take a moment to ourselves to relax. So, remember to pause and take a deep breath. Both mentally, and physically. Breathing exercises will help keep your mind and body aligned and focused on positive energy.

5. REMEMBER TO LAUGH!

Even if something seems hopeless, it’s important to remember it’s okay to laugh at yourself, or the irony of a negative situation. The very act of laughter will release some good, positive chemicals and help you stay emotionally balanced. If you can learn to laugh at life, you’ll be good to go with replacing negative energy with positive.

6. PAY IT FORWARD BECAUSE LITTLE THINGS MATTER

When you get positive energy, remember to give positive energy. This will have the side-effect of giving you even MORE positive energy! This means reaching out to people, from friends to family to even strangers.

Here’s what author and founder of Success Consciousness, Remez Sasson said about being nice to people, “Acting kindly and being considerate will make people treat you in the same way, and this will lead to feeling good, happy, and therefore, becoming more positive.” This means that thinking positively about those around you, will extend your positive energy to your community. You’ll feel good about paying forward that positivity while also receiving positivity from others.

7. LEARN TO LET GO NO MATTER HOW HARD IT CAN SEEM

This is one of the most difficult steps that we all have to learn one way or another. Letting go of our negativity and sadness and anger can be so hard, but it’s always worth it in the end. You can only control yourself and the energy that you give out. If you find yourself hung up on a grudge or an old argument, you may be feeding negativity energy right into your life without knowing it.

Here’s what Catherine Pulsifer mentioned about trying to bring back positive energy into your life. She states, “It takes effort and belief to persevere and stay dedicated to accomplish your goal. When you find yourself doubting whether the effort is worth it, visualize how you will feel and what you will have once your goal is completed.” Learning to let go means you can begin the healing process and start feeling more positive energy.

8. CONNECT WITH NATURE

Nothing gives more positive vibes and relaxing energy than just reconnecting with Mother Earth. Going to the gym or the spa are good ways to relax your body and mind, but it’s also a good practice to just go for a walk through the woods or sit by the river and experience all of the majesty and wonder that the Earth has to offer. It can help remind you that you’re just one small part in the grand scheme of things.

9. LEARN TO FEEL YOUR EMOTIONS

Sometimes, we bottle our emotions up deep inside, especially if they’re negative or inconvenient to us. However, you have to learn to feel your emotions authentically and as they happen. When you feel sad, you have to let yourself feel that sadness. Because once you feel it and experience it, you can move on from it and return to your positive feelings. Bottling up your emotions only means that you’re going to be constantly feeding on negativity.

10. CLEAN YOUR SPACE AND BECOME CLUTTER-FREE

If you’re living in a cluttered environment, it can be harder to truly let yourself feel the positivity that flows around you. According to author and certified eco-designer Debra Duneier “This changes the energy and prepares the space to celebrate the wonderful things that are about to come into your life.” When you start to clean up your living space, you’ll feel so much lighter and calmer. It’s also a good way to relax and to rearrange your life so you feel less stress.

You never know when there will be something that causes a low point in your life, and being able to focus on yourself and bring positive energy into your life again will help you cope with whatever negative feelings are happening to you. Hopefully, these things will give you a better handle on how to bring positive energy back into your life.

REFERENCES:
HTTP://WWW.YOURTANGO.COM/EXPERTS/GALTIME-COM/8-STEPS-ATTRACT-POSITIVE-ENERGY-YOUR-LIFE
HTTP://WWW.DRJUDITHORLOFF.COM/POSITIVE-ENERGY/DESCRIPTION.HTM
HTTP://WWW.NYTIMES.COM/2012/03/24/YOUR-MONEY/WHY-PEOPLE-REMEMBER-NEGATIVE-EVENTS-MORE-THAN-POSITIVE-ONES.HTML?MCUBZ=1
HTTPS://WWW.SUCCESSCONSCIOUSNESS.COM/BLOG/POSITIVE-ATTITUDE/FOCUS-ON-THE-POSITIVE-AVOID-THE-NEGATIVE/
HTTPS://WWW.SUCCESSCONSCIOUSNESS.COM/STOP-NEGATIVE-THINKING.HTML


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Fun Fact Friday

  • A pizza that has radius “z” and height “a”
    has volume Pi × z × z × a.
  • According to psychologists, exposure to nature allows us to remember and value important things like relationships, sharing, and community.
  • Girls who mature early in life are more likely to be delinquent and emotionally aggressive later in life.

 

Eating chocolate while studying will help the brain retain new information more easily, and has been directly linked to higher test scores.
Eating chocolate while studying will help the brain retain new information more easily,
and has been directly linked to higher test scores.
  • Shy people tend have great observational skills, making it easier to recognize the core of a problem then solving it.
  • Eating chocolate while studying will help the brain retain new information more easily, and has been directly linked to higher test scores.
  • Intelligent people have the ability to enhance the intelligence of those in their social circle
  • Smoking a cigarette causes damage in minutes – not years.
Happy Friday  🙂
 
source:       factualfacts.com       https://twitter.com/Fact       @Fact


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Get Outside Every Day. Here’s Why.

By: Jordyn Cormier   May 25, 2016

It’s easy to get holed up in our dens of technology, but stepping outside, nature or not, is the best thing for you in oh so many ways. Whether your suffering from frequent colds or you are simply in a creativity rut, the outdoors may be just the fix you’re looking for.

Ditch your stress. Time spent outside, specifically time spent immersed in nature, can bathe you in meditative relaxation. In Japan, it is known as forest bathing, but you don’t need to get deep into a forest to reap benefits. Just stepping into a park can confer immediate effects. In fact, those who spend more time outside experience lower blood pressure and a reduction of the stress hormone cortisol. If you’ve noticed a new crop of gray hairs emerge along your hairline, maybe it’s time to get yourself a little more fresh air.

Reboot your brain. After some time spent outside, you’ll feel more productive, more focused and may even experience an improvement in your memory. Being outside can especially rekindle the spark of creativity that has dissipated from your daily routine. Above all else, those who spend more time outdoors also experience lower incidences of depression. Think of the outdoors as a soothing balm for your brain. Get as much of it as you can.

Get more physically fit. This is a simple equation, really. You can either be sitting indoors or you can be galavanting outdoors. One takes years off of your life. The other adds quality to your life. You’ll use your muscles more, you’ll smile more, you’ll push yourself harder when you get outside. Addicted to your gym membership? Consider the outdoors a free gym membership that you shouldn’t squander.

Reset your eyes. If your job entails you stare at a screen under flickering florescent lights for 8 hours a day, you need to get outside more. The natural light of the outdoors relieves the eyes from the strain of screens and artificial lighting. For children especially, spending more time outdoors may decrease the risk of development of nearsightedness. Keep your eyes healthy by taking a gander outside on the regular.

Become superhuman! Okay, so maybe you won’t suddenly be able to fly, but getting outside on a regular basis seriously jolts your immune system. According to studies, people who spend more time outside have a significantly higher immune function, including an increase in natural killer cells, than those who spend their days indoors. Natural killer cells are powerful agents in the prevention of tumors forming in the body, so the importance of getting out into nature cannot be overstated. Even if you’ve found yourself simply succumbing to colds more frequently, maybe more outdoors time is just what the doctor ordered.

Load up on sunshine. Going outside into the sunshine allows your body to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D, if you haven’t heard it enough, is crazy important for your health. It helps to stave off depression, strengthen bones and can decrease your risk of heart disease. Getting ten minutes of direct sunlight on your bare skin each day allows your body to produce around 10,000 IU, which is more than ample. Check out my recent post on vitamin D for more information on the safest ways to get it.

Reconnect with your roots. If you’re looking to get more in touch with yourself and with your natural surroundings, just get outside. If you spend enough time in nature, you will begin to sense subtle shifts in your environment. You’ll notice fluctuations in your energy. You’ll become more open and calm when you feel how incredibly vast the outside world is. In a way, spending more time outside puts you more in tune with our surrounding world. Nothing is wrong with a little perspective now and then.

According to an analysis published in the Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology, North Americans spend only 8 percent of their time outdoors! Don’t be a statistic. It’s time to live your life to the fullest and get outside.


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8 Everyday Activities That Increase Your Mental Health

Which of these uncomplicated activities to you do most days?

Do these most days and it will help protect your mental health.

1. Dwell on the positive

Positive memories could be used as a way to help boost mental well-being, new research finds.

People in the study were asked to focus on positive social memories.

Participants focused on their own positive feelings from that memory as well as on the positive feelings of the other person.

The results showed that people felt socially safer and more positive and relaxed after the exercise.

At the same time feelings of guilt and fear were reduced.

2. Drink some tea

Tea is both calming and can make you feel more alert.

It improves cognitive performance in the short-term and may help fight Alzheimer’s in the long-term.

Finally, it is linked to better mental health.

I’ll raise a cup to that!

From: Tea: 6 Brilliant Effects on the Brain

3. Be calm about minor irritations

Dealing with the minor stresses and strains of everyday life in a positive way is key to long-term health, a new study finds.

The research found that people who remained calm or cheerful in the face of irritations had a lower risk of inflammation.

brain

4. Don’t watch the news

Viewing violent news events on social media can cause symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A recent study has found that almost one-quarter of individuals had PTSD-like symptoms from following events like 9/11 and suicide bombings on social media.

The more people viewed the events, researchers found, the greater the subsequent trauma they experienced.

5. Get your micronutrients

Despite consuming more calories than ever, many people do not get their recommended intake of brain-essential nutrients, a new study reports.

The study explains the best way of getting the required nutrients:

“A traditional whole-food diet, consisting of higher intakes of foods such as vegetables, fruits, seafood, whole grains, lean meat, nuts, and legumes, with avoidance of processed foods, is more likely to provide the nutrients that afford resiliency against the pathogenesis of mental disorders.”

6. Look out the window

People who live with a water view have better mental health, new research finds.

Don’t live near water? Any sort of green space or even a grassy rooftop will do just as well.

7. A little activity

Compared with inactivity, even ‘mild’ levels of physical activity are linked to 50% better mental health, a new study finds.

The more exercise people performed, the more protected they were against mental disorders, the research also found.

But both low and high levels of exercise were also linked to more than 50% reductions in the risk of suffering mental illness compared with being inactive.

8. Brush your teeth

Brushing your teeth regularly could reduce the risk of dementia by more than one-quarter, new research finds.

People with fewer than 20 teeth are 26% more likely to develop cognitive problems that could lead to Alzheimer’s.

It is thought that chewing increases the blood-flow to the brain, thereby improving memory.

source: PsyBlog


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5 Wellness Trends That Are Worth Your Time

by Carey PetersMarch 2, 2016

Let’s face it, the age of dieting and fat-free culture is over. It’s 2016, and instead of looking for a magic pill to make us healthy, this is the year to shift our cultural mindset to a healthier lifestyle — a lifestyle that is fun, easy, and works for our bodies and the planet.

This means changing the way we think about health and wellness and opening our minds to alternative ways of nourishing ourselves, which actually includes way more than food alone.

It’s time for a radical paradigm shift in the way we “do” health, because major illnesses like heart disease and diabetes can be prevented by simple lifestyle and diet changes.

But just because the changes are simple doesn’t mean they’re easy. Here are the health trends that are actually worth paying attention to.

1. Ditching diets

The majority of people who lose weight regain it — and sometimes more — within a few months.

Yet we are so convinced that there’s one magic diet out there that will keep the weight off, so we keep looking for it. The truth is, though, that obsessing about what we eat (which is essentially what diets are) only creates anxiety and restriction, which is counterproductive to losing weight and feeling happy.

Enter health coaches.

A health coach is professionally trained as a master of habit change. Having a health coach in your corner is the difference between knowing what to do to get healthy (“I should really drink more water …”) and actually doing it (“I drank 2 liters of water every day this week!”).

Health coaches don’t enforce rules; they offer guidance and goal setting. They don’t punish and shame; they support, stretch, and hold clients accountable so that success around your health goals is inevitable.

Instead of pushing dieting, points, or calorie counting, it’s about discovering the perfect lifestyle for our unique body, one that is sustainable for a lifetime.

2. Embracing healthy fats

For decades, fat-free products have lined our supermarket shelves and become the American norm. But what many people don’t realize is fat-free foods make up for the lack of fat with something — usually sugar.

Many “fat-free” products labeled as such are misleading and unsatisfying because they lack the fat our bodies need and crave. We end up eating more and more of these foods to try to feel satisfied but never really do.

We’ve also done ourselves a huge disservice as a culture by labeling all fats as bad.

Certain fats like hydrogenated oil (aka trans fats) should be avoided. These are found in many products with long shelf lives from crackers and frosting to deep-fried food and microwave popcorn.

It’s good to get in the habit of reading the list of ingredients on food labels. Look out for the word “hydrogenated” — that’s the killer clue.

Healthy fats, on the other hand, can lower cholesterol levels and decrease risk of heart disease and offer myriad health benefits from better reproductive health to glowing skin.

Healthy fats like the ones found in avocados, nuts, olives, and wild fatty fish are crucial for our well-being, and they’re back in fashion. So eat them with pride. We do!

almonds

3. The power of fresh air and green space

We’ve been so focused for so long on food and how it affects our health that we’ve neglected the health benefits of our natural environment — which offers us totally free, 24/7 nourishment for our souls.

It’s time to take an hour a day to shut down screen time, take a break from the office cubicle, and get outside. Our bodies and minds crave fresh air, sunshine, and green space just like it craves food.

So take that hour-long lunch break, walk to a nearby park, and breathe in the air. Even 15 minutes of fresh air (even if it’s city air or it’s raining) is more refreshing than an air-conditioned office.

On weekends make a point to get into nature — go for a hike in the woods, ride a bike along the pier, have a picnic in the park — and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your cravings disappear and how recharged your system feels.

4. Modest meat consumption

We’re not suggesting everyone swear off meat forever, but our current level of animal consumption is simply not sustainable for the planet or our bodies — especially meat from factory farm animals pumped with antibiotics and unnatural (often harmful) diets.

The meat industry is also one of the highest contributors to global warming due to the methane gases emitted by livestock waste, which converts into greenhouse gases. An enormous amount of water is also needed to produce meat — it takes approximately 1,300 gallons of water to make 1 pound of beef!

There are plenty of ways to consume nutrient-dense, non-animal protein sources like pumpkin seeds, non-GMO tofu, chia and hemp seeds, quinoa, garbanzo beans, and lentils. Think of animal protein as a condiment — sprinkle in a little grass-fed, organic animal protein here and there.

5. Coffee + grass-fed butter for better digestion

Our society is obsessed with caffeine, and coffee is our drug of choice. The truth is that caffeine combined with a diet low in healthy fats and fiber can wreak havoc on our nervous system and digestive function.

If quitting caffeine is just not an option, then try the new “Bulletproof” coffee from health expert Dave Asprey. It’s a blend of high-quality coffee beans and grass-fed butter.

The fats in the butter slow the absorption of the caffeine and prevent that caffeine rush, replacing it with a slow release of high energy for hours. Combine Bulletproof coffee with a breakfast that’s high in healthy fats and fiber, and you’ve got yourself a trendy (and healthy) start to your day.


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Three Strategies For Bringing More Kindness Into Your Life

Countless studies link kindness and generosity to greater life satisfaction.

Greater Good Science Center    By Juliana Breines, Ph.D.    10/04/2015 

One of the best ways to increase our own happiness is to do things that make other people happy. In countless studies, kindness and generosity have been linked to greater life satisfaction, stronger relationships, and better mental and physical health—generous people even live longer.

What’s more, the happiness people derive from giving to others creates a positive feedback loop: The positive feelings inspire further generosity—which, in turn, fuels greater happiness. And research suggests that kindness is truly contagious: Those who witness and benefit from others’ acts of kindness are more likely to be kind themselves; a single act of kindness spreads through social networks by three degrees of separation, from person to person to person to person.

But just because we have the capacity for kindness, and reap real benefits from it, doesn’t mean that we always act with kindness. We may be too busy, distracted, or wrapped up in our own concerns to pay close attention to others’ needs or actively seek out opportunities to help. Or we’re just out of practice: Researchers have argued that kindness is like a muscle that needs to be strengthened through repeated use.

How do we strengthen kindness? Researchers have identified a number of effective exercises, and many of them are collected on the Greater Good Science Center’s new website, Greater Good in Action (GGIA), which features the top research-based activities for fostering happiness, kindness, connection, and resilience.

Here I highlight GGIA’s 10 core kindness practices, grouped into three broad categories.

1. How to Cultivate Feelings of Kindness

Kind behavior comes more naturally when we’re feeling a sense of compassion and connection with others. This first set of practices focuses on cultivating these feelings.

The Feeling Connected practice involves thinking about a time when you felt a strong connection to another person—through a meaningful conversation, say, or by experiencing a great loss or success or historic event together—and describing that experience in writing. A 2011 study led by researcher Louisa Pavey in the United Kingdom found that participants who completed this exercise reported increases in feelings of concern for others and stronger intentions to carry out a number of generous acts over the next six weeks, such as giving money to charity and helping a stranger in need.

How does this practice increase kindness? Research suggests that feeling connected to others satisfies a fundamental psychological need to belong; when this need is unmet, people are more likely to focus on their own needs rather than caring for others.

Similar to Feeling Connected is the Feeling Supported practice, which involves thinking about the qualities of the people you turn to when you’re distressed, then recalling a time when you were comforted by one of them. A 2005 study led by Mario Mikulincer, dean of the school of psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, found that people who completed this writing exercise, compared with those who wrote more generically about a colleague or acquaintance, subsequently reported greater compassion and willingness to help a person in distress. This simple practice is powerful because it increases “attachment security,” a state that involves feelings of trust and comfort and is especially helpful when we’re feeling threatened or insecure. It can also remind us of the kinds of qualities we want to embody when kindly supporting others.

Another excellent way to tap into feelings of compassion and concern for others is to take an Awe Walk, which involves going for a stroll somewhere that seems vast and perspective-shifting, and makes us feel connected to something greater than ourselves. In a 2015 study led by Paul Piff, then a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, some participants stood in a grove of towering eucalyptus trees and gazed up for just one minute; other participants looked away from the trees, at a building. The tree gazers were subsequently more likely to help someone in need and less likely to feel that they were superior to others.

Finally, you can try a Compassion Meditation. This simple—though not necessarily easy—technique involves paying attention to your breathing as you extend feelings of goodwill toward a loved one, yourself, a neutral person, and even an enemy. Results of a 2013 study led by Helen Weng, then at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, showed that participants who performed the compassion meditation for two weeks demonstrated more generous behavior, donating more money to a victim of unfair treatment, and they also showed greater activity in brain regions associated with understanding the suffering of others and regulating emotions in response to pictures of suffering. (You can find audio of a guided compassion meditation on the GGIA website, along with the script for this meditation.)

kindness_wisdom

 

2. How to Boost the Happiness We Get from Kindness

Another way to increase the amount of kindness we perform over the long terms sounds simple: make a concerted effort to perform more kind and generous acts in the short term.

Intentionally practicing kindness in our everyday lives, even on days when we’re not in a particularly generous mood, can go a long way toward turning kindness into a habit. That’s largely because of the way kindness breeds happiness: The good feelings serve to reinforce our kind acts and make us more likely to want to perform them in the future.

Practicing Random Acts of Kindness is a good place to start. This practice involves performing five acts of kindness in one day and then writing about the experience. They can be anything from bringing a meal to a sick friend to giving up your seat on the bus to donating blood to buying a coffee for the person in line behind you at a cafe. For ideas, consider acts of kindness that you’ve witnessed or received in the past, and check out this Buzzfeed list of 101 suggestions. Random acts of kindness not only lift our spirits in the moment; they also have the potential to alter the way we feel about ourselves and increase healthy forms of self-esteem.

Research suggests that not all acts of kindness are created equal, however. Many factors can influence whether and how these acts bring us psychological benefits. The Making Giving Feel Good practice outlines three strategies that can maximize the positive effects of generosity.

The first strategy is to make giving a choice. Research suggests that when we feel obligated to give—such as when we feel cornered by an aggressive request—we are less likely to enjoy it. It’s important to give yourself the option to say no, and to give others the same option when requesting help. The second strategy is to make a connection with the recipient of your kindness—for example by taking a colleague out to lunch rather than just giving a gift certificate. The third strategy is to take the initiative to learn about the impact of your generosity, which can elicit contagious feelings of joy. For example, see this video of a bone marrow donor meeting the little girl whose life he saved.

3. How to Inspire Kindness in Others

It’s important to find ways to boost your own kindness. But arguably the greatest good we can do in the world comes from finding ways to increase kindness in others. That’s what the next set of practices are designed to do.

On GGIA, we provide three research-based strategies for educators, parents, and leaders of all kinds to help others overcome barriers to kindness and generosity. The first is to create Reminders of Connectedness in a home, office, or classroom. These reminders can be something as simple as a quote evoking shared goals, words like “community,” or a picture conveying warmth or friendships.

The second involves Putting a Human Face on Suffering: Being able to identify distinct, specific victims of a problem—and learning about their personal stories—can make that problem more vivid, strike an emotional chord, and thus motivate people to help.

The third, Shared Identity, involves forging a sense of common humanity across group boundaries. Reminding people to see the basic humanity that they share with those who might seem different from them can help overcome fear and distrust and promote cooperation. Even small similarities, like appreciating sports, can foster a greater sense of kinship. (An overview of these three strategies is also provided in the Eliciting Altruism practice.)

Finally, the practice for Encouraging Kindness in Kids offers four specific techniques to bring out children’s natural propensity for kindness and generosity. These techniques include avoiding external rewards for kind behavior, so that kids get to experience the feeling that kindness is its own reward, praising kids’ character instead of their behavior so they come to see kindness as an essential part of who they are, and modeling kindness in your own behavior, since actions tend to speak louder than words when it comes to nurturing generosity.

Becoming a kinder person—and nurturing kindness in your children and students—isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes practice to turn your best intentions into concrete actions. We hope the kindness exercises on Greater Good in Action provide an effective way to start building that habit today.

Juliana Breines, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow at Brandeis University. 

This article first appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. In November, GGSC is hosting a summit on Mindfulness and Well-Being at Work; find out more here.