Kindness strengthens the brain: Study shows it helps boost the entire family’s cognitive health

Doing an act of kindness can make you feel good about yourself, and a new study suggests it also benefits the brains of everyone living under one roof. Researchers from The University of Texas at Dallas report that teaching and practicing kindness at home improved parents’ resilience and children’s empathy.

Because both resilience and empathy use different cognitive skills such as responding well to stressors or considering different perspectives, the researchers suggest kindness can improve a person’s cognition.

The Children’s Kindness Network is an online kindness training program that enrolled 38 mothers and their 3- to 5- year old children. The program included “Kind Minds With Moozie” with five modules featuring a digital cow who explained creative exercises parents can use with their kids to learn about kindness.

“We aim to encourage parents to engage in practical, brain-healthy interactions with their children that aid in a better understanding of one another, especially during times of stress,” says Maria Johnson, MA, director of Youth & Family Innovations and coauthor of the study in a media release. “Research shows that kindness is a strong potentiator of vibrant social engagement, which in turn is a critical component of overall brain health.”

The team studied the impact on the program and children’s empathy. Parents filled out a survey on their own resilience and their kids’ empathy before and after the training program. Results showed that after the program, parents reported being more resilient and preschool-aged children were more empathetic. 

One surprising finding was that children’s empathy levels were below average despite showing improvements after training. The team explains this is likely because of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns that limited children’s social and emotional development.

“In times of stress, taking a moment to practice kindness for yourself and model it for your children can boost your own resilience and improve your child’s prosocial behaviors,” says Julie Fratantoni, PhD, cognitive neuroscientist and head of operations for The BrainHealth Project. “Do not underestimate the power of kindness, because it can ultimately change and shape brain health.”

The findings are available to read in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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About the Author

Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor’s of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women’s health.

Comments

  1. This is one of the fundamental teachings in Tibetan Buddhism. See what H.H. The Dalai Lama has to say on the subject of kindness and empathy.

    1. Jesus God’s own Son whom he raised from the dead is the only God and he gave us the one and only holy scripture as an instruction on how to live. Buddha along with his followers are in hell there is only one way to eternal life and that is thru Jesus Christ.

      1. Such a lack of kindness and empathy. The commenter above seems to be in a hell of their own making. I hope they watch Kind Minds with Moozie.

      2. The Buddha’s teachings do not conflict with any religion. You may want to study the person before you judge. Isn’t there some teaching like, “Judge not, lest thee be judged.” or something like that that would have kept you out of this mess you’ve gotten yourself in to?

      3. That’s harsh. Christs’ mercy is immeasurable. The more forgiveness you show others, the more Christ will show you. No one really knows who is in Heaven and who is in Hell. I pray no one goes to Hell and everyone repents for their sins.

      4. You see this? This awful, unkind thing you just wrote in response to a reasonable, sensible comment from a stranger?

        THIS is why people are abandoning Christianity. It’s not your god, it’s people like you and how to pervert those scriptures to fit your own hatred and prejudices.

        Disgusting.
        I think Robbie made a great point about Buddhism and kindness.
        HS.

      5. Only the most ignorant of Christians believe non-Christians are burn in Hell. Jesus did say the only way to eternal life is through Him, but that does not imply one must have belief in Him to be saved. To imagine an innocent child or loving kind adult consigned to hell because they never heard the Gospel is insane. I would let them off the hook, and that would make me more compassionate than God? Don’t be silly.

      6. They are not necessarily in hell, as they did not knowingly believe their precepts and beliefs were contrary to the gospel. As the bible says “in heaven, there are many mansions” and I sincerely believe they will live there. Jesus is compassion and practiced kindness. I am sure his mercy extended to buddhists, hindus and all good people who practice another religion. Now, as for those who practice witchcraft and satanism, that’s entirely another story! Pray for them. That’s what Jesus would want you to do. Blessings to you this Easter season.

    2. Like the abstract noun ` kindness` can be linked to the multi factorial concept of brain health in a study. Oh boy.

  2. The time to be kind is gone. There is no living, or coexisting with the vile cancer called liberalism, and the demonrat party.

  3. Jesus condensed the 10 commandments to 2. Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind and Love your neighbor as yourself.
    Kindness the way to live.

  4. You’re smart and kind and pretty and young!
    You go girl!
    Thank you for proving being kind is smart.
    We need to teach and reward kindness in school and in the workplace.
    Nice guys should not finish last.

  5. I am Baha’i and the teachings of compassion and kindness are wrought all throughout my religion. Tolerance of other religions is highly stressed. Is this not what makes the world so great? To be free to worhip without bigotry?

  6. ~ Kindness ~

    “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another.” ~ Jesus Christ

  7. What is the likelihood of a study carried out by a funded NGO titled “Children’s Kindness Network” would carry out a study of the effectiveness of their program and determine that it had no positive effect? Or had a negative effect?

    Yet, a reporter who has been trained in a scientific discipline accepts the claims of their press release as valid. Is she aware of the very poor track record of published and refereed research in these fields?

    No matter.

    “Even if it isn’t true, it should be true, and that’s close enough”

    “Even if it ia

  8. If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children,and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. -the Jesus Luke 14:26

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