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The Biology of Kindness

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The Biology of Kindness

Six Daily Choices for Health, Well-Being, and Longevity

MIT Press,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Learn why kindness is a powerful medicine, and the key to longevity, resilience and healing from trauma. 

Editorial Rating



  • Scientific
  • Applicable
  • Inspiring


Don’t underestimate the power of kindness; it may just be the secret to health. Embracing emotions associated with kindness, such as gratitude and optimism, can positively influence your health in wide-ranging ways, including extending longevity and recovering from heart failure. Drawing on a wealth of sources, from positive psychology research to Vedic philosophy, epidemiologist Immaculata De Vivo and biologist Daniel Lumera argue in favor of integrating acts of kindness into both health care systems and everyday life, thus helping people self-actualize and build resilience.


Kindness is linked with clinically significant improvements to your health and well-being.

There’s a biological benefit to showing others compassion. Science indicates that people who display gratitude, kindness, optimism, forgiveness and happiness often enjoy greater longevity and overall well-being. Kindness is also an evolutionary strategy vital to humanity’s survival. It provides “a sense of belonging,” helping social groups cohere without the need to identify a common enemy or resort to emotional coercion or threats.

Aspire to engage in an act of kindness every day, whether that entails walking a shelter dog or simply giving someone a hug: 2018 research from the University of Oxford shows that after deliberately practicing kindness for as little as a week, research subjects experienced elevated happiness levels.

Being kind to others may improve recipients’ health in clinically significant ways. For example, according to research from Harvard University, using “positive psychology” interventions, such as displaying gratitude or optimism, when treating patients with cardiovascular...

About the Authors

Immaculata De Vivo is a Harvard professor of both epidemiology and medicine whose research explores carcinogenesis and disease prevention. Daniel Lumera is a biologist and the best-selling author of The Cure of Forgiveness. He’s the creator of the My Life Design® method, which helps people consciously design their professional, social and personal lives.

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