In his TEDx talk (back in 2012), Dr Hamilton very much emphasized on how people who are kind and compassionate at their heart can change the world for the better.
He described his Mum as somebody who is a very generous and compassionate, always doing nice things for others. He noticed this made them feel better and be kinder to others, too. Dr Hamilton also grew up hearing people around him say: “If you love from the heart your heart will be better”. This resonated with me as I observed the same by my grandmother as a child.
Over his life, he noticed that people started to feel better after acts of kindness by others and became kinder, like in a ripple effect. He researched on medicines to cure cardiovascular diseases, called cardiovascular protectors and found out that kindness and compassionate behaviour are natural ones.
He was also wondering what a side effect (meaning a positive one) of kindness could be It is happiness.
Research over this matter has been carried out over a group of people, namely a “5 a day acts of kindness”, choosing a particular day to accomplish them. This resulted in small acts, showing gratefulness for example, or making a cup of tea for someone. All this with unconditional kindness, no benefit in return. Another group of people just carried on their lives without including any of that. Kindness groups were happier over the 6 weeks’ time planned for the research. According to Dr Hamilton kindness is a spiritual light. You resonate with that part of yourself when you show kindness.
All ancestors evolved by helping each other and longer and stronger bonds make us live longer. WE can bond by being kinder and that can become wired in our own being.
Self-preservation and selfishness is also part of our being for survival reasons. Dr Hamilton’s favourite joke is about two nature film makers in the African Savana. When a lion appears and goes towards them, they do not know what to. One of them feels reassured that it is two of them in danger and that could potentially survive.
So, yes, an instinct for survival is a key feature. However, studies of Buddhist monks meditating for loving kindness (to project people they care about) display structural and chemical changes in the brain. This translates into projecting kindness in meditation by wishing others to be at peace and happy. Kindness is the strongest aspect of the process.
“If you love from the heart is good for the heart”.
Oxytocin (the “kindness” hormone) plays an important part, too. It is produced in women breast feeding for instance. It lowers blood pressure. Oxytocin binds on blood vessels and boosts the production of nitroxide. Arteries expand and blood pressure drops. These are the cardiovascular effects of kindness. Stress is a major factor in cardiovascular diseases, as well as how we lead our lives and treat each other.
Another very interesting piece of research is the “Rosetto effect” (nobody died of heart disease in that part of the world). What protected inhabitants was social interconnectedness, friendships and this protected them from cardiovascular diseases, as well.
In addition to that, some other piece of research is around marital issues shone light on this. Those displaying aggressive behaviour versus those experiencing warm contact in their relationships. Results showed that women were impacted on with high level of cardiovascular diseases but not those in couples with warm interactions, warm connecting and oxytocin production.
This again goes back to: “If you love from the heart is good for the heart”.
A ripple effect, like a pebble in the pond.
Dr Hamilton concludes with some stories about kindness.
Tom goes and picks up Dorothy (both living in the village where Dr Hamilton comes from, a friend who he wants to see but it is too difficult for her to travel to him. During his journey he helps a man carry his television. The man wants to pay him back but Tom refuses. When Tom sees the man brings the TV back he wonders why and the man explains that after what Tom explained about kindness (changing the world for the better), he wants to make that happen. The TV had been stolen and he decided to return it. (Audience laughing)
Dr Hamilton is also the kindness expert for “Psychologies” magazine and appears on a series of FB lives to discuss the effects of kindness.
In the latest one he focusses on the following: how can kindness slow the rate of biological ageing?
Kindness is the opposite of stress, as he had mentioned in other FB lives and in his TEDx talk. Kindness hormones in many ways are the exact opposite.
Stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol are produced by feelings and sensations of stress. On the other hand, the way that kindness feels can generate the “kindness” hormone. Stress hormones increase blood pressure whereas kindness decreases it.
Telomere loss in the DNA in the ageing process can be compared to the unravelling plastic parts of shoes (called aglets). They act in our DNA in the same way as aglets do for the shoes called telomeres get worn down, exactly like shoe laces that get used over time. Stress and strain causes telomeres to be worn down. The level of ageing is determined by the loss of these telomeres.
Intense meditation practices (producing a substance called telomerase, repairing the loss of telomeres), can slow down the process of ageing, too (in a couple of months, on average).
Scientists compared mindfulness v “kindfulness” a few years ago (meaning practices focusing on kindness rather than the breath itself) focussing on the sentiment of kindness in the practice.
This means how much you appreciate people in your life. Loving kindness meditation, previously mentioned, is one of these “kindfulness” practices.
In meditation this repair can be gradual but higher in loving kindness meditation. That is why you need intense meditation. In loving kindness there is no loss of telomeres at all. Being kind can “turbo boost” the effect on the whole system. Because of how it feels, it can have the opposite of an inflammatory effect in the body. For this reasons, it clears the clutter and allows the body to replace the ageing cells (an activity of “decluttering” the environment around the DNA). It slows down the rate of biological ageing because of how it feels.
In the video there is a final part including a 2 minute practice of “Kindfulness”. Think about someone you care about, why you appreciate that person (a parent, a child, a best friend), why they are so important to you, feel that sense of kindness towards that person. Physiologically, brain and other organs are slowing down the rate of telomeres.
This can be done any time of the day and it is very good to do especially in lockdown where we can feel more isolated. You can be sitting and close your eyes for two minutes. You can think of a different person. Focus on the reason why you are kind, which is not to get something in return. It is part of my meditation sessions with groups, too.
Let the rate of biological ageing decanter.
A nice dose of kindness.
“Always be kind, it is almost always the right thing to do”.
Dr Hamilton recommends it.