The Helper’s High

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” — Dalai Lama

In my 20 years of practice, I’ve yet to encounter a first-time hearing device candidate who’s excited about the prospect of wearing hearing devices.  I’m well aware of the stigma associated with hearing aids and empathetic to those emotional barriers. My daily acts of kindness are in providing patients with discreet hearing devices that immediately return them to full participation in life. I know that being kind is not only a worthy way to be, it’s actually medicinal.

Kindness works like a charm on blood pressure issues, depression, anxiety and pain; helping others can increase your levels of oxytocin (one of the nurturing hormones), and an endorphin-like chemical called substance P, which can relieve pain. Acts of kindness also boost the manufacture of serotonin and dopamine, the neurotransmitters in the brain that endow you with feelings of happiness and wellbeing. In general, research shows us that kind people tend to suffer less stress and even age more slowly than those who do not practice kindness.

Oxytocin kicks in big time when we fall in love or have a baby and manifests when we witness acts of kindness. Oxytocin helps lower our blood pressure, enhances heart health, and increases self-esteem and optimism.

Thinking and chemicals

  • Participants in studies at UC Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center reported feeling stronger, more energetic, calmer and less depressed after helping others. They also had increased feelings of self-worth.
  • According to a 2010 Harvard Business School survey of happiness conducted in 136 countries, people who donated money to charity were shown to be the happiest people, and those who volunteered tended to experience fewer aches and pains.
  • It’s been demonstrated that helping people protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. Over 55s who volunteer for two or more organizations are 44% less likely to die early, and that’s adjusting for other health factors such as general and mental health, exercise and smoking. Apparently, it has an even more profound effect on our health than exercising four times a week.

Don’t be random in your acts of kindness

Research out of Emory University showed that perpetrating acts of kindness lit up the centres of the brain associated with pleasure and reward in the same way as it does with a recipient of kindness. This phenomenon is called the “helper’s high” and its effect is only momentary. So, given that kindness has such a profound effect; it can increase self-esteem, mood, empathy, and connectedness, it makes sense to practice it regularly. It could be as simple as calling someone who you know is having a rough time, or buying a healthy sandwich for a homeless person.

I recently moved to an apartment in Melbourne’s CBD. At first, I was a little stunned by the level of homelessness there. After a while I built up the courage to have proper, real conversations with these people, it’s hard to describe the level of appreciation that occurred when I could help feed them in a respectful & dignified way. I find it fun to inject a bit of humour into such encounters as healthy options are rarely their first choice. What’s not obvious is that helping them possibly helped me more than it did them. You’ll see opportunities to deliver kindness everywhere if you actively look.

Kindness begins at home

Probably the most important person you can show kindness towards is yourself. It’s important not to sacrifice yourself in favour of others, not only because you need to practice self-care, but because you’re worth it too and you’re more likely to be of utility to others if you’ve got yourself in order. By analogy, if the plane goes down, if you give yourself oxygen first; you’ll be far more helpful to others. Practicing gratitude as well can be symbiotic to the benefit of the kindness.

It might seem difficult to see kindness in our world where conflict is rife, and where people believe they should defend their points of view with division, dogma & fear. If only people understood that kindness could have a such a positive impact on their own overall quality of life.

One of my kindest, most important services is insisting on full-time (min 12 hours per day) device use. This task takes up over half of my time, sometimes it’s a grind, but it’s worth it because scientific evidence shows that hearing device use has brain health benefits and plays a protective role in maintaining cognitive abilities.

If you feel that hearing loss is holding back you or someone you care about, please make an appointment with me, Andrew Campbell, Independent Masters-Qualified Audiologist at NeuAudio. My focus is on hearing and brain health in Melbourne and Brisbane, and I provide optimum solutions for an immediate resolution. Click here to book an appointment.