When you were a child, did you ever go running to a parent when you scraped your knee? If you were met with kindness and compassion and some loving validation, chances are that your pain subsided rather quickly and you began to feel better.
In contrast to that, if you were met with judgement or derision, you would have felt distressed for a long time…or simply learned that your feelings were not important. Children, who have experienced unkind responses, grow into adulthood disconnected from their emotions and bodies and have few strategies to deal with emotional or physical pain.
A large amount of literature on how social factors influence pain, verifies what parents instinctively know when they comfort a child after hurting themselves. They take action to comfort the child, “…with every confidence that the resultant analgesia will be prompt and persistent”. This is because the body’s natural endogenous opioids that are released by kindness, soothe a person’s pain receptors. An example of one of these natural opioids is the bonding hormone Oxytocin. “The only way to get it is to make it internally, and we make it through how we think, feel and behave. When our thinking, our feelings, and our behaviour towards others and towards animals is kind…then it’s like we turn on an oxytocin tap inside our bodies, giving us much of these ‘side effects’ that lead us toward wellbeing” David Hamilton.
“Research also shows that in relationships where there is more kindness, love and affection, there is also much less hardening of the arteries. It’s almost as if when we harden towards others, so we harden in the inside, but when we soften towards others, so we soften on the inside too. Stress increases activity of the sympathetic nervous system, placing the body on alert. Kindness and compassion, on the other hand, increase parasympathetic activity, allowing the body to relax and regenerate. Kindness also makes us happier and is an antidote to depression. “
The evidence demands a verdict! If you are in pain, add a dose of loving-kindness to your life.