Be kind-hearted. It’s good for your health.

© Glow Images. Model used for illustrative purposes.

© Glow Images. Model used for illustrative purposes.

Picture this scene. You have three tradesmen working flat-out in your new home, drilling and hammering. In the middle of all the noise and flying dust, there’s a knock at the front door. When you open it, you find a young man standing there. He explains that he’s been employed by the government to offer householders free power-saving devices, and wants to come in and install them. What would you do? Would you tell him you’re too busy and send him away? Or would you invite him to come in?

That’s the decision I was faced with just recently. My first reaction was to brush him off with a “no thanks”. After all, it really was a most inconvenient moment for him to call. But when I looked at him carefully, I could see that he was a sincere young guy just trying to make a living, so I accepted his offer after checking his credentials.

As he was unpacking the products, he began sniffing a lot. I offered him a tissue, which he accepted gratefully. He apologized, saying he was hot from pushing his cart around the streets. In response, I gave him a glass of ice-cold water. He thanked me, and said that I’d been very nice to him. After completing the installation and paperwork, he collected his things and left.

A few minutes later there was another knock on the door. When I opened it, there was the young man again. He looked unwell and asked if he could use the toilet. When he re-joined me in the lounge he looked much better. He said he was most grateful for my kindness and apologized for having to return. I replied that it was my pleasure to assist him – and I truly meant it. Right from the start, I’d sensed that something wasn’t right and that he needed help.

After he left, one of the tradesmen thanked me for assisting the young man. I replied that there’d been occasions in my life when I’d been grateful for someone’s caring actions. Difficult circumstances had been eased by them being kind-hearted. It had seemed only natural for me to pass on the same thoughtfulness and consideration to him. After all, I was just practicing the Golden Rule of living – “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Following the Golden Rule, treating others in the way we’d like to be treated without any thought of reward, can make life more agreeable for ourselves and others. Kindness, unselfish acts, and common decency are essential humanitarian characteristics that can be practised at home, at school, in the workplace and elsewhere. Such character traits can not only grease the wheels of society, but researchers are finding that they can also produce health benefits for those who practice kindness.

Dr David Hamilton, author of ”How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body” and “Why Kindness Is Good for You”, believes kind-heartedness “makes us happier, …gives us healthier hearts, …slows aging, …makes for better relationships”.  Professor Stephen Post, author of “Why Good Things Happen to Good People” considers that ”A strong correlation exists between the wellbeing, happiness and health of people who are kind.” Such findings suggest that the Golden Rule of kindness is not just a powerful blueprint for civilized action, it can also lead to a long and healthy life.

To follow the pathway to achieving better health outcomes, here are a few tips.

● Practice being kind-hearted. It’s good for your mental and physical wellbeing. According to the Dalai Lama,“The various features and aspects of human life, such as longevity, good health, success, happiness, and so forth, which we consider desirable, are all dependent on kindness and a good heart.”

● Don’t be stingy. Be generous. Take every opportunity to follow Henry Burton’s axiom: If you’ve had a kindness shown you, pass it on. Treat all people with consideration, not just those who are close to you.

● Think of “random acts of kindness” as the norm. As human beings we have an “in-built capacity” to be unselfish, thoughtful and big-hearted towards each other – to care for and support one another. It’s not accidental that the genuine humanity and thoughtfulness embedded in the Golden Rule, can increase good health, happiness and longevity. It’s actually a natural outcome.

First published as “My Golden Rule of Living“ on Spiritualityandhealthconnect.com. Republished as “The life-changing Golden Rule” on Motherpedia - an online community for Mums by Mums.

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I'm a Melbourne based health writer who provides a perspective on the connection between spirituality, thought and health. As a keen blogger, my aim is to provide the public with a diversity of health content including research into the mind-body connection and how thought affects health.

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Comments

  1. Justin says

    I feel so thankful for the countless ways in which I’ve been helped over many years by the kind, caring, considerate acts of others. Quite often their kind-hearted actions have meant that my health has been benefitted. For example, difficult situations have been resolved and the mantle of worry has been removed from my thinking and experience. On the reverse side of the coin, I always feel chuffed, and often invigorated mentally and physically, whenever I’ve been able to be kind to someone else. The great thing is that it doesn’t matter who the person is – a close friend or a stranger. That’s a beaut idea to practice the Golden Rule of living wherever we happen to be and “without any thought of reward”. What a healthy approach to life! An unselfish act often brings with it its own reward – perhaps it may be just seeing the simple joy and gratitude of the recipient. Also, I’ve found that a kind deed may not be reciprocated directly back to me by the recipient, but I’m often “rewarded” by the kindness of an entirely different person. There seems to be an automatic transfer or “flow-on effect” of kindnesses among those around us. Such activity surely has to be health-giving!

    • Beverly Goldsmith says

      Thank you Justin for your comment. It’s great to know that you are being kind-hearted and enjoying living the Golden Rule. Well done. My mother was a great believer in the adage: if you’ve had a kindness shown you, pass it on. She would have agreed with you, that “a kind deed may not be reciprocated directly back to me by the recipient, but I’m often “rewarded” by the kindness of an entirely different person.” How true that is. It’s also true that kind-heartedness is health-producing and everyone can prove this.

    • Beverly Goldsmith says

      Thank you Deborah for your comment. Indeed the world would be more beautiful if everyone lived by the Golden Rule and were kind-hearted to each other. Not only that, but everyone would then be positively healthy and well too. Now that adds another dimension to kindness and it’s one worth contemplating as being a normal and natural outcome.

  2. Yvonne says

    Lovely blog Beverly. I always endeavour to live by the Golden Rule. Being thoughtful certainly outweighs being thoughtless. Love Yvonne

    • Beverly Goldsmith says

      Thank you Yvonne for your comment. I am so happy to know that you are thoughtful and live your life according to the Golden Rule. Well done. While this makes you a kind-hearted person, it also makes you a healthy one. And that’s something to be glad about. Keep up the good work.

  3. Wendy says

    A very timely blog Beverly. With national elections taking place very soon there seems to be a negative sense of all things political which can pervade our lives if not watchful. The golden rule – do unto others etc. is a perfect reminder to correct our thinking and our conversation accordingly. Only yesterday I was the recipient of an act of kindness and it was such a warm experience that you want to pass it on.

    • Beverly Goldsmith says

      Thank you Wendy for your comment. How lovely that you were the recipient of an act of kindness. I know that you will pass it on. The opportunity will present itself for that kindness to ripple out and continue on its way. It’s also a good point about wanting kindness to be evidenced during the election period. Keeping out negative thoughts is important. Kind-hearted consideration will be needed as the election day draws closer.

  4. Kerri says

    Thank you Beverly. A most impressive example. Knowing how disinclined we may feel to linger over such a door knock, it is certainly a “feel good” situation when we can put self aside and take time to be kind.
    As Justin says kindness may flow back through someone else not the recipient of our own gentleness.
    Great reminder. Thanks

    • Beverly Goldsmith says

      Thank you Kerri for your comment. Yes it was a moment when the outcome could have been so different. When I invited him in, I did sense that he needed to be treated kindly. I was pleased when I found that my instinct was right and was able to give him a “cup of cold water”. It was actually a hot day in Melbourne, and my heart went out to him. He was doing his best. Kindness doesn’t cost anything and yet it can do so much good. It’s certainly worth passing on.

  5. Val says

    Thanks Beverly, I couldn’t agree with you more. Kind heartedness comes naturally to some, with others it can be a struggle and we are all faced by circumstances, seemingly beyond our control, when good thoughts are displaced by anger, hatred or violence. Therefore each individual has actively to develop a generous and forgiving state of thought as a prerequisite to reaping the benefits which result therefrom

    I have frequently experienced this in my dealings with others when confronted with a perceived injustice. The situation has been turned around, without recourse to confrontation, simply by changing my own thinking rather than attempting to influence the thoughts or actions of others. This has nothing to do with religion. In fact religion often gets in the way by generating thoughts of intolerance and even hatred rather than kindness and understanding. The Golden Rule is universal and is sound common sense. If one wants to experience peace and harmony in one’s life one must start with expressing love and good will to those around us. Not always easy but nothing that is desirable is achievable without effort. and the great part is that it generates and perpetuates good health.

    • says

      Thank you Val for your comment. I am glad that you agree with the need to express kind-heartedness – especially in difficult situations. I agree with you that the Golden Rule is universal and that it is sound common sense. Kind-heartedness is also impartial which means that it can be expressed by anyone, anytime, anywhere. Perhaps if more people were kind-hearted, there would be a larger number of healthier individuals and a healthy society.

  6. Peter Calder says

    I, too, have always found the ‘Golden Rule’ to be the best approach in daily personal interactions. The rule is sometimes mis-quoted as ‘Do unto others as they do unto you’. This misrepresentation of the rule is reactive and not proactive, By that I mean that we would wait for others to help us before we helped them. It is like a communication line with both ends waiting for a transmission – suddenly nothing happens! I find that life is far sweeter if I actively look for ways to help others; and not wait for them to make the first move. Not only do I feel good in being useful but it makes life much richer.

    • Beverly Goldsmith says

      Thank you Peter for your comment. I’m so glad to know that you “actively look for ways to help others”, and that you don’t wait for them to make the first move. Yes it does make you feel good to be kind-hearted and useful and as you say “it makes life much richer.” Also as I said in my article, it’s not accidental that the genuine humanity and thoughtfulness embedded in the Golden Rule, can increase health, happiness and longevity. Better health outcomes are actually a natural result of our daily practice of being kind and thoughtful to everyone we meet.

      • Justin says

        Beverly, I whole-heartedly agree with you and Peter that it’s important for us to “actively look for ways to help others; and not wait for them to make the first move”. This was brought home to me very vividly in a recent Outlook Program on the BBC World Service. It was an interview with the author of a book with a most unusual title: “What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife”. The book tells about a 2002 terrorist bombing in East Jerusalem in which the author’s wife was seriously injured, and the incident’s subsequent impact on his life. His remarkable story is a poignant and inspiring example of overcoming anger and the desire for revenge through applying the morale of the Golden Rule. A crucial component in the healing process for him was his willingness to forgive the perpetrator of the terrorist bomb attack. It’s an exceptional example of the Golden Rule in action, and it epitomizes the healing benefits associated with its application.