Sunday, April 17, 2011

Being Nice is Good For You!

We have a joke in my house where when one tells another to "Be nice!", the other responds with "No way!" You see, in Middle English, to say someone nice is to say, well, that they are stupid. But, like so many other words in common use now, meanings change. And this one, I think, for the better.

There are actually health benefits to being nice. Psychologists have discovered that nice people typically have stronger marriages, stronger friendships and actually live longer. Being nice is not to be confused with being a pushover. A nice person is considerate of others, but has boundaries and is assertive when the needs arises.

The health and happiness benefits of being nice is probably attributed to the fact that nice people tend to be optimists. Optimists, it has been discovered, have better functioning immune systems which helps to ward off disease. Being positive can act as a buffer against stress and the chemicals associated with stress, norepinephrine and cortisol, two hormones associated with heart disease.

How can you create positivity? Be around happy people. Simple, right? Not so much, but even faking being positive has positive effects. When you start feeling grumpy, smile. That's right, just smile. It will boost your mood. How? Two key facial muscles are flexed when you smile. When flexed, these muscles trigger brain activity that occurs naturally when you are feeling happy. But it has to be a big smile, not a grimace-y type smile; a big genuine grin - lips apart, mouth turned up at the corners and crinkly eyes.

Another way to improve the mood is to help others. It may be doing something nice for your spouse or your child, or volunteering. The important factor is that you do it without intending to get something in return. Giving is the key. Doing so triggers the release of mood-elevating endorphins.

So, what are you doing right now? Check your mood. Need a lift? Put a comedy in the dvd and laugh out loud. Smile, really smile. Do something nice for some one. Feeling better? You will!

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