I have written a lot about side effects of kindness, that when you give you also receive. Sometimes receiving can be in the form of acts of kindness done for you, or of seemingly random blessings showing up in your life, but they also come in the form of physiological effects.
In my talks I quite often explain how we catch emotion from people. It’s facilitated by an interconnected network of brain cells known as the mirror neuron system. If you’re with someone who is happy, your brain actually mirrors the activity of their smile muscles signaling your muscles to do the same.
I broke my wee toe about three weeks ago. I have such a dangerous job – I was preparing to give a talk, walking around my office speaking aloud as I refined how I was going to describe one particular topic, and I hit my toe on the radiator.
"My old self would have found crying in front of so many people highly embarrassing so I would have gulped down some deep breaths, maybe cleared my throat and pretended to look at the ceiling, all to hide my emotion. I would have tried to ‘Man up’."
Research shows us that when a person receives a placebo that they believe is a drug, and subsequently experiences a placebo effect, it is because their brain has produced the substances necessary to give them what they expected the drug to do.
When we think of side effects the first thing that springs to mind are the side effects of drugs. But who’d have thought that kindness could have side effects too? Well, it does! And positive ones at that.
The brain, in many ways, doesn’t distinguish real from imaginary. Take a simple example of stress. Your brain responds to a stressful situation by releasing stress hormones. But your brain also releases the stress hormones when you remember a past stressful event or even when you vividly imagine one.
Any mother intuitively knows that her children need love. Now, a wealth of scientific evidence is shining light on why this is so. The Budapest Early Intervention Project (BEIP), a project that examined the health and development of children in Romanian orphanages, found startling evidence that when infants and children are starved of love and affection, their bodies do not grow as they should.