The Science of Kindness

One of my Childhood Idols Marie Osmond wrote this about the science of kindness:

“I have always known kindness is a gospel principle, and that it heals our hearts emotionally and spiritually—but this story proves it can even heal us physically!

In the 1970’s, researchers set up an experiment to determine the effects of diet on heart health. They used a controlled group of rabbits and fed them a high fat diet and kept track of their blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol. All of the rabbits had a build up on the inside of their arteries, but one group surprised them by having 60 percent less build up than the others. Everything in their diet was the same, so they were confused as to why. The only thing they had not checked was the research staff. They found that every rabbit with fewer fatty deposits was being fed by one researcher. Although she fed them the same food, “she talked to them, cuddled and petted them… She couldn’t help it, it’s just how she was.”

She did more than feed the rabbits food, she fed them with love. Since it was so difficult for the research team to believe the rabbits we’re healthier because of kindness, they repeated the experiment. After the experiment was completed again, it showed the same thing, the loving researcher produced higher health outcomes in the rabbits she fed while being loving and kind. Years later, scientists still refer to this experiment. A book was written called The Rabbit Effect with this conclusion: “Take a rabbit with an unhealthy lifestyle. Talk to it. Hold it. Give it affection. That relationship made a difference.”

Ultimately, what affects our health in the most meaningful ways has as much to do with how we treat and live with one another, and how we think about what it means to be human. I love this because it isn’t often science will admit to the connection to gospel truths. 😉 After all, God created the science in the first place.😄

The results of this study are pretty easy to figure out… after all, the greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” followed by, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:36-40)

The results of lack of kindness shows in the world today and is proof positive the Savior was right by saying—love God, then each other! They really are the greatest commandments. I know we don’t have control over others, but we do have control over ourselves (and remember too that holding on to anger is proven to be a health risk). I believe we can make a difference when we all show kindness, one person at a time.

Last week Tyler Perry accepted the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscars, and speech resulted in a standing ovation! He said:

“My mother taught me to refuse hate, she taught me to refuse blanket judgement. It is my hope that all of us would teach our kids to just refuse hate. Don’t hate anybody. I refuse to hate someone because they are Mexican, or because they are black or white or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian. I want to dedicate this award to whoever wants to stand in the middle. That’s where change happens.”

His words were a balm for every soul and spoke truth! And you know what? It takes as long to be mean as it does to be kind—it’s just a choice! And we have scientific proof it even helps rabbits!”🐰😉#KindnessHeals

If you bring Tyler and Marie’s words and apply them to addiction, you get this:

I’ve been listening to this book on Audible and it states:

“Families of addicts using collaboration and kindness rather than confrontation to support behavior change”.

This theory comes from the CRAFT approach which bases their “craft’ on this principle:

We envision a world where everyone who loves someone struggling with substances has access to information and tools based in science, grounded in compassion, and tailored to the needs of families and their community.

Studies show the CRAFT approach has a 67% success rate compared to Al-Anon/nar-anon. This is the the success rate for the person with addiction when their families participate in craft principles compared to those other support groups! So how we treat the addicted loved one matters!

So Instead of washing your hands of something ‘you can’t control’ (which is true – in theory) craft teaches these skills:

“Providers who are trained or certified in CRAFT teach parents communication skills, collaborative problem-solving, and how to talk with their children in a warm and loving way. Parents get coaching and individual therapy and are encouraged to do couples work.

“While other treatment approaches call for either confronting or detaching from a loved one who is a substance user, CRAFT shows how to change one’s interactions with the addicted person to reduce or stop his or her substance use and encourage the person to move toward getting help. CRAFT teaches family and friends skills such as how to:

  • Care for themselves and take back control of their lives.
  • Understand triggers that lead to a loved one’s substance use.
  • Reward a loved one when he or she does not use ­substances—and withdraw positive reinforcement when there is unhealthy behavior, such as alcohol intoxication.
  • Use positive communication to improve interactions and to maximize their impact.
  • Encourage a substance user to seek treatment.
  • Spot signs that things might escalate to domestic violence.-

While it is true you can’t MAKE someone stop using, or control the outcomes, you can surely “invite” them to care enough about themselves to want to get better. We do this by showing kindness to another human in the face of a devastating insidious disease that needs the balance of a LOVE & CONNECTION to overcome its demons.

Rat Park

If I could go back to those days when my kids filled my house with muddy shoes and red punch stains around their lips- I mean pure cranberry juice without sugar, of course- as any good Mom would buy- I would relish in the mess this time. I promise. I would take all those old Tony Robbins tapes and replay them over and over.

His theory is that every decision, every action, is dependant on what ‘state’ a person is in. State of mind, state of body- how we feel at any given moment has proven to be paramount in my search for addiction ’causes’.

As my Papa would always say “I wish I could do it all over again knowing what I know now.” I used to think that was such an old thing to say.

Well, now I’m old.

But if I could do a time travel- even for a day-I would pull my kids close to and whisper to them how many times they are going to feel confused and uncomfortable; and how it’s ok to feel out of sorts, that they can be in those moments and survive without having to change it or distract from it or bury their feelings.

As I described in this blog post when my son was spared a horrible accident as a toddler; this time-travel, I would tell him how strong and valiant he is. I would look in their little shining eyes and say “No matter what- you’ll be ok. The pain won’t last. You can work through it.”

Of course, I may have said these things to them, but I think I may have also done a lot of the opposite. “What do you need to feel better right now?” Eeek!!! Distraction, suppression, external validation. Anything to avoid the current state of fit throwing, or anger or sadness. Parenting advice changes every few decades so I only take partial blame if this happened.

When I set out on this journey in 2018 of wondering why this epidemic is happening and why in God’s name- as my Mama used to say- it had chosen MY family to implant itself on; I had no idea the answers would be so elusive, yet so vast in nature.

Everyone is just trying to feel ok at any given moment. That moment then turns into a lifetime of addiction because of what brain changes occur. I tire of the argument of whether it’s a disease or choice because as I’ve stated in many posts– how does that change how we treat it (or them?)

Pam Jones Lanhart, a recovery advocate, parent coach and Arise interventionalist, states it so well:

“The science and evidence based research shows that addiction is a reward and response. I think “pain” is a broad word but there is now doubt that people start using because the drink or drug does something for them. “When I drink this drink, I feel less anxious.” Or “when I use this pill all of my emotional pain goes away and it feels like a warm, comforting blanket.” The word pain is relative. But pain could mean the pain of feeling left out. The pain of a family divorce. The pain of a label such as adhd and being made fun of. Pain doesn’t necessarily mean big T trauma. But it does mean that the substance is the solution for the negative emotions that they are experiencing.

So of course, we all make a choice to use or not use. Everyone does it. So we live in a culture where substance use is social glamorized and yet when someone gets ill from it, we demonize and shame them.

NO ONE and I mean NO ONE chooses addiction. Not one person who took a drink or a toke off of a bud expected to become addiction. That’s a ridiculous notion and not informed by any data or science. “When I used I was rewarded with a really good feeling. So I used again.” And eventually the neuropathways of the brain are reprogrammed and THEN in spite of all of the negative consequences and the fact that the using is no longer working for them, they can’t stop. That is the definition of addiction. Continued use in spite of negative consequences.

No one expects this. It sneaks up on them and before they know it they are addiction.

That being said, today 7,000 people will choose recovery. 7,000!

And yes, it has EVERYTHING to do with pain. We all have pain. When I drink a glass of wine I feel free. The pain of my life dissipates. Let’s face it. If substances didn’t make us feel better on some level, none of us would use them.

So using is a choice.
Addiction is NOT a choice
Recovery is a choice."- Pam Jones Lanhart

As I have explored the CHOICES and CAUSES of my son’s addiction, I keep coming back to the connection theory of Johanna Hari. Even if we never know someone’s true reason for starting (and maybe they don’t and won’t ever know either) we can still get a picture of the importance of a person”s ‘state’.

“Get a rat and put it in a cage and give it two water bottles. One is just water, and one is water laced with either heroin or cocaine. If you do that, the rat will almost always prefer the drugged water and almost always kill itself very quickly, right, within a couple of weeks. So there you go. It’s our theory of addiction.

Bruce comes along in the ’70s and said, “Well, hang on a minute. We’re putting the rat in an empty cage. It’s got nothing to do. Let’s try this a little bit differently.” So Bruce built Rat Park, and Rat Park is like heaven for rats. Everything your rat about town could want, it’s got in Rat Park. It’s got lovely food. It’s got sex. It’s got loads of other rats to be friends with. It’s got loads of colored balls. Everything your rat could want. And they’ve got both the water bottles. They’ve got the drugged water and the normal water. But here’s the fascinating thing. In Rat Park, they don’t like the drugged water. They hardly use any of it. None of them ever overdose. None of them ever use in a way that looks like compulsion or addiction. There’s a really interesting human example I’ll tell you about in a minute, but what Bruce says shows that both the right-wing and left-wing theories of addiction are wrong. So the right-wing theory is it’s a moral failing, you’re a hedonist, you party too hard. The left-wing theory is it takes you over, your brain is hijacked. Bruce says it’s not your morality, it’s not your brain; it’s your cage. Addiction is largely an adaptation to your environment.

We’ve created a society where significant numbers of our fellow citizens cannot bear to be present in their lives without being drugged, right? We’ve created a hyperconsumerist, hyperindividualist, isolated world that is, for a lot of people, much more like that first cage than it is like the bonded, connected cages that we need.

The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. And our whole society, the engine of our society, is geared towards making us connect with things not people. If you are not a good consumer capitalist citizen, if you’re spending your time bonding with the people around you and not buying stuff—in fact, we are trained from a very young age to focus our hopes and our dreams and our ambitions on things we can buy and consume. And drug addiction is really a subset of that."
~ Johann Hari

This came up on my memories today. I’m unsure who to give credit to. It says what I feel in my heart, even though I know it is sometimes difficult to do.

The key to supporting people living with addiction in reaching their full potential is the exact opposite of “letting them hit rock bottom.” It is instead to move the bottom of that pyramid of human needs up so that the 
needs which are known to bring people closer to reaching their full potential are being met.
( Such as feeling loved, worth saving, forgiveness)

It means to foster social connectedness rather than to force isolation.... Wich leads to shame depression and death😭
It means to practice acceptance rather than intolerance.
It means to fan self-worth rather than to fuel shame.
It means to love rather than to disdain.
Mostly it means to never having last regrets for others...I can't imagine being on the brink of death knowing that you are a complete disappointment to everyone.