Our genes know — kindness is the best medicine

Editor’s note: Life can be stressful, and many of us have a hard time administering self-care. The current world situation ripe with conflicts, shortages and a pandemic — makes things even harder. Dr. Amit Sood, formerly of Mayo Clinic and now head of the Global Center for Resiliency and Wellbeing, is the author of books including “The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness” and “SMART with Dr. Sood,” and creator of the mobile app “Zizo: Your Resilience Pal.” Now, he is writing a weekly column answering readers’ questions on these topics. See the tagline to learn how to send him your questions, and he will answer in future columns.

Dear friend,

Of the hundreds of ice-creams I have eaten so far, the only one I remember is the ice-cream I never ate.

That was in 1993. My wife Richa and I were sitting outside a shop in the sweltering New Delhi. We had just bought an ice cream to cool down. From the corner of my eye, I saw a little boy who could use a few calories. I walked up to him and offered my cone that he gladly took. I have savored the gleam I saw in his eyes at least a dozen times since then.

In a very interesting study, researchers looked at the genetic fingerprint of the two types of happiness — hedonistic (self-centric) and eudaimonic (other-centric). People who were hedonistically happy had a higher inflammatory and lower anti-viral gene expression. It was just the opposite for the eudaimonic ones. With many illnesses caused by inflammation, you can see why this is so important for our health.

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My take on this research is that our genes and the immune system know what is right for us and society. In the current times when a healthy immune system is extremely important for us, promoting kindness is imperative.

Kindness, research shows, pays three times over. Your kind words and actions enhance your health and wellbeing, help others, and the memory of kind actions by itself enhances your wellbeing. A very simple way to enhance your self-worth and happiness today is to count your previous kind actions.

I suggest take out a pen and paper and write the three most selfless things you have done in your life. If you feel up to it, share your experience with someone. Just counting previous acts of kindness can enhance your self-worth and bring happiness to others (you guessed it right — witnessing or hearing about others’ kind actions also increases happiness).

In kindness,


Dr. Amit Sood answers your questions about stress, resilience, happiness, relationships, and related topics in his column. Email dearfriend@postbulletin.com.



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