7 ways kindness and patience can bolster health in a pandemic

Excerpt: Practicing kindness and patience can help individuals and communities cope better with pandemic challenges and overcome pandemic fatigue. The time-tested virtues of kindness and patience can also improve overall health by activating feel-good brain chemicals, bolstering the mind, easing chronic pain, and strengthening immunity. Other health benefits include lifting your mood, protecting your heart, and slowing biological aging.

Practicing kindness and patience can help individuals to cope better with the challenges of the pandemic and overcome pandemic fatigue,* advises Psychology Today. In caring communities and as a society, cultivating patience in following infection control precautions is also essential to containing and reducing the spread of COVID-19. Acts of kindness create positive energy and social connections to help each person make the best of each day, alleviate the COVID-induced stresses of these tumultuous times and be safe.*

Research shows the time-tested virtues of kindness and patience can boost your overall health as well, during a pandemic and throughout life. Here are some of the ways kindness and patience promote better mental and physical health:

  1. Activate feel-good brain chemicals
    Acts of kindness make the giver and recipient feel good. Scientists have found kindness activates the brain chemical oxytocin, known as the bonding hormone,* reports Mayo Clinic. Kindness also stimulates the brain’s reward centres, boosting brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine, associated with satisfaction and pleasure.*

  2. Bolster your mind
    Volunteering stimulates the mind and helps older adults maintain cognitive abilities such as memory,* thinking and attention,* according to University of Toronto and University of Montreal. Older adults who feel appreciated and needed experience the most health benefits from volunteering.*

  3. Ease chronic pain
    People who engage in altruistic behaviours, doing good without expecting anything in return, can reduce their physical pain,* reported a 2019 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) study. For example, cancer patients experiencing pain, who cooked and cleaned for others, felt less pain than similar patients who did not.*

  4. Boost immunity
    Good deeds and helping others increase your production of immunoglobulin A, an important antibody that helps fight off infection,* according to a Harvard Medical School study.

  5. Protect your heart
    Chronic impatience and irritability are associated with a higher risk of heart problems.* Cultivating patience through mindful practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi can help lower blood pressure, stress, and reduce the risk of heart disease.*

  6. Improve your mood
    Patient people generally experience less depression, are more empathetic and feel greater gratitude.* Fortunately, patience can be learned. People who participated in two weeks of patience training, where they learned to identify triggers of impatience and regulate their emotions, became more patient and improved their mood,* reported a study in The Journal of Positive Psychology.

  7. Slow biological aging
    Patience can mean persevering against long-term challenges, such as COVID-19. Impatient people tend to have shorter telomeres – tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes that slow aging – than patient people,* a PNAS study found. The researchers suggested impatience may accelerate biological changes that cause faster aging.*

*The following sources provide references for this blog, in order of preference:
1. Psychology Today. “Depression and pandemic fatigue.” (2020), online: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-new-normal/202009/depression-and-pandemic-fatigue
2. Psychology Today. “How can kindness help us with COVID-induced stress.” (2020), online: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-science-kindness/202005/how-can-kindness-help-us-covid-induced-stress
3. Mayo Clinic. “Something to think about: The depths of kindness.” (2017), online: https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/something-to-think-about-the-depths-of-kindness/
4. Mayo Clinic. “The art of kindness(2020), online: https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/the-art-of-kindness
5. University of Toronto. “Brain shape: Volunteering and healthy aging with guest Dr. Nicole Anderson.” (2020), online: https://www.brainshape.ca/podcast/episode9
6. Good Times. “Six benefits of volunteering.” (2020), online: https://goodtimes.ca/six-benefits-of-volunteering/
7. Medical Express. “Experiments show altruistic behaviours reduce pain.” (2020), online: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-01-altruistic-behaviors-pain.html
8. Centre for Studies on Human Stress. “COVID-19: The Mother Theresa Effect.” (2020), online: https://humanstress.ca/covid-19-the-mother-teresa-effect/
9. Mayo Clinic. “3 ways to learn patience and amp up your well-being.” (2019), online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/3-ways-to-learn-patience-and-amp-up-your-well-being/art-20390072
10. University of California, Berkeley. “Four reasons to cultivate patience.” (2016), online: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_reasons_to_cultivate_patience#:~:text=Four%20Reasons%20to%20Cultivate%20Patience%201%20Patient%20people,The%20study%20of%20patience%20is%20still%20new%2C%20
11. Medical Express. “Researchers find link between impatience and faster aging.” (2016), online: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-02-link-impatience-faster-aging.html