Being kind to others is not only a positive way to live life, but can also benefit stress levels and brain function, according to new research.

A study, carried out by Stanford and UC Berkeley, has found that kindness kick starts a physiological reaction that can reduce the stress hormone cortisol.

Too much cortisol can impact the memory and impair how the brain works, so anything that reduces the hormone is a good thing.

Chronic stress can wreak havoc on the mind and body which is why it is so important to find ways to control it. Cortisol increases glucose into the bloodstream, which then enhances the brain’s use of sugar.

Co-author of the study Professor James Doty, clinical professor of neurosurgery at Stanford said: “When someone acts with compassionate intention, it has a huge, huge positive effect on their physiology. It takes them out of the threat mode and puts them into the rest and digest mode.”

The trial involved 51 people who were randomly selected and recruited onto Stanford’s Compassion Cultivation Training program.

For 10 weeks there asked twice a day, every day, whether they felt anxious, calm, alert or fatigued at the time of questioning.

They were also asked to complete a survey which encouraged them to assess their feeling.

The researchers said: “During [the training] there were significant decreases in anxiety and increases in calmness. With each successive rating, participants were less likely to want to reduce their anxiety and fatigue, as well as less likely to want to enhance their feelings of calmness and alertness.”

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