The global COVID-19 epidemic has lasted for almost two years. The fear of catching the epidemic, coupled with continuous social distancing measures, the blow of wage cuts, and unemployment during the epidemic, to name a few, have made people feel tired, depressed, and anxious. So the question is: “How can we change this situation?” Kindness is a free and effective method to help boost your immunity.
A study in Perspectives on Psychological Science indicated that negative emotions such as loneliness, depression, and stress could weaken immunity, thus reducing the effectiveness of a given vaccine. However, few people realize that in addition to using vaccination against the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s another way to help boost your immunity. Believe it or not, it is the daily habit of nurturing oneself and imparting genuine “kindness” to others.
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Dr. Ishak, a professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital, believes: “Doing more good deeds is an effective way to gain health.”
Psychiatrists point out that this is a free and effective method to help boost your immunity; always be kind to others and actively think and engage in doing more good deeds for others. The healing power of kindness helps to improve your immunity.
Kindness has often been seen as a spiritual concept, but few realize it also has a material component. It allows the body to secrete oxytocin. Oxytocin is usually associated with when a mother secretes this hormone during childbirth, via breastfeeding, and establishing a close bond with the baby. The fact is, both men and women secret oxytocin in their bodies throughout daily life.
Many studies have shown that when people think positively, engage in acts of kindness, treat others kindly, and communicate honestly, the level of oxytocin in their blood increases significantly. Equally, when people witness others doing good deeds and reflect upon these good deeds, the level of oxytocin in their bodies also increases. This clearly shows the importance of social interaction and the beneficial effects of group interaction.
Oxytocin: the ‘good hormone’
Therefore, some people call oxytocin the “good hormone” or the “love hormone.” Kindness releases oxytocin in the body, playing a pivotal role in your health.
Oxytocin has a healing effect on the body and it has no ill side effects. Furthermore, it is free and only requires a kind attitude. For example, when people overcome fear, feel stressed, anxious, worried, or irritable, the body releases the stress hormone cortisol. It prepares the body for the fight or flight response, and if this is triggered excessively by the body, it weakens the immune system and causes the body to age faster.
Many studies have shown that oxytocin can reduce not only pain, depression, and anxiety, but also enhance immune functions, such as:
1. Strengthening the immune defense
Oxytocin promotes the thymus and bone marrow development, enhances the immune system’s surveillance ability, and maintains immune homeostasis.
2. Inhibits inflammation
Oxytocin inhibits the overexpression of cytokines, reduces chronic inflammation, and enhances antiviral ability.
3. Reduces stress hormones
Oxytocin suppresses stress-related immune disorders, reduces immunosuppression, and improves antiviral ability.
In 2011, the journal Psych Neuroendocrinology published a study undertaken by researchers at the University of Miami. The psychiatric scientists and psychologists recruited 71 women infected with HIV and tested their blood levels for oxytocin and CD4+ T lymphocytes.
Interestingly, the CD4+ T lymphocytes are the masters of the acquired immune system and are one of the virus’s targets. The results showed that people with low oxytocin levels negatively correlated stress and CD4+ T lymphocytes.
It appears that the higher the pressure of stress people experience, the body releases more increased secretions of the stress hormones, which in turn inhibit the body’s immunity, thus lowering the number of CD4+T cells.
In women with higher levels of oxytocin, the more considerable stress pressure they endure, the CD4+ T lymphocyte count will increase relatively slowly instead. This is due to oxytocin’s ability to reconcile and repair.
When faced with stress, oxytocin counteracts and repairs the adverse effects of the stress hormones and further promotes the proper functioning of the immune system. Therefore, people with relatively high oxytocin levels have an excellent ability to self-buffer stress in their bodies.
This is due to their positive mental outlook, as they can view the bad things in life positively and optimistically. As a result, they can convert bad things into good things and continue to engage in positive and good deeds, thus benefiting stronger immunity.
Engage in developing the habit of being truly kind
Engaging in small acts of kindness and paying closer attention to caring for others during the epidemic will go a long way in helping society reduce the depressive atmosphere brought on by the virus and will also help enhance people’s immunity.
Some examples to showcase this point: When the epidemic in Italy was severe, people sang on their balconies to encourage each other and bring warmth to others. In many countries, people volunteered to form a team to help the lonely elderly buy food, and call and chat with them.
Generating and maintaining kindness in yourself requires constant daily practice. This will eventually form the habit of being genuinely kind in your thoughts, speech, and actions. People who receive this will experience your “heartfelt kindness” and return this in kind. Even the seemingly trivial things, such as bringing a snack to share with colleagues or sharing inspirational stories, can help people accumulate kindness and good habits.
As we know, kindness helps the body to secrete more oxytocin. When there is a higher level of oxytocin in the body, it will make people pay more attention to others, build stronger trusting relationships, and perform and increase kinder deeds, thus making people healthier. This is the virtuous circle of “oxytocin-health.” From a biochemical point of view, it is not enough to boost oxytocin just by performing only one random act of kindness.
So based on the above evidence, the more you engage in this virtuous circle of “oxytocin-health” via actual acts of kindness, this will enable your body’s immunity to fight and help clear the virus. This is even more important when receiving the vaccine, as any harmful substance of fear may override or interfere with your body’s natural immune system’s proper functioning and design.
So always maintain a heart of kindness to help combat any negatives in life.