What Does Kindness Have In Common With the Arterial Health of Rabbits?

Everything you ever wanted to know about kindness can be learned from…rabbits. On today’s episode Tony talks about kindness, and how Dr. Robert Nerem stumbled upon a most unusual example of how both our emotional and physical health can be improved by kindness.

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Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the “uh’s” and “um’s” that, in his words, “must be created by wizards and magic!” because it’s that good! To learn more about Descript click here https://descript.com?lmref=v95myQ


[00:00:00] In 1992, author Henry James told his nephew, there’s three things in human life that are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. So now, over a century later, there is ample scientific evidence that shows that, quote, could be speaking to our health and the health of our communities. And so a few days ago, I was driving to dinner with my wife and one of my daughters and I were sharing something with my wife that I really, really thought that she would remember. And ironically, as I sit here recording this podcast episode, I really can’t remember what it was that I thought that she should remember, which kind of speaks to the fact that what I felt heard about or what I thought that she was supposed to remember, because apparently I am counting on people to be hanging on my every word and remembering every interaction that they’ve ever had with me, even though apparently I can’t remember my own interaction. But I digress. But I remember looking over to my daughter and I just said, OK, Mac, I am going to do my best to not say. I thought I already told you that again, like ever to anyone, not just to my wife, but to anyone, if at all possible. Because really, what is the goal in telling somebody that I thought we already talked about something or, you know, we’ve already gone over that before because is it to make them feel bad? Is it, as I joked earlier, because I feel like if people don’t remember everything that I’ve told them, that for some reason I must not matter to them as much as I thought I did.

[00:01:19] If you thought that you shared something with someone and they don’t remember, even if you could swear that they know and they’re just holding out because they don’t want to admit that they remember what you said, or for some reason they think that they hold more power over you because they’re telling you that they don’t remember or that you can prove somehow that you’ve told them or what you think that you told them. The bottom line is that the debate of whether or not they remember is, in my humble opinion, a bit of a waste of emotional energy. So if you really want somebody to know something, tell them again. So back to what author Henry James told his nephew rules one through three of life to be kind. And I don’t know the exact scenario of when Henry told his nephew, but had he been asked just for kicks to throw in the fourth rule of life, I’m guessing, as maybe you are two, that most likely that would have been to be kind. So coming up on today’s episode of The Virtual Couch, we’re going to talk about how we’ve learned a great deal of how important kindness can be by actually checking the arteries of bunnies. That and so much more coming up on today’s

[00:02:21] Episode of Virtual. Hey, everybody, thanks

[00:02:30] For joining me. Episode two hundred and sixty one of the virtual couch. I’m your host, Tony Overbay. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified mine will have a co-writer. See your husband, father of four and creator of the Path Back. If you are looking to put pornography in your rearview mirror once and for all. Head to Pathbackrecovery.com. There you’ll find a short e-book that describes five common myths that people make when trying to put pornography behind them once and for all. Again, if it’s people that are turning to pornography as a coping mechanism, an unhealthy coping mechanism, then pathbackrecovery.com a place you want to be. We’ve got these amazing group calls once a week that have just been phenomenal, that are very strength based. This is all strength based. Hold the shame, become the person you’ve always wanted to be. Way I often say, and I haven’t said this in a long time, but when I was promoting my book, he’s a porn addict now. What an expert and a former addict. Answer your questions that I was doing a little bit of a book tour and at that time I talked about working with almost fifteen hundred individuals is now maybe six hundred and shame has still been a part of zero out of the fifteen or sixteen hundred people’s recovery. So again, shame free hold the shame. Become the person you always wanted to be kind of way. Go to pathbackrecovery.com.

[00:03:34] And if you’re hearing this on Tuesday morning or any time following Tuesday, you missed an amazing webinar last night for my magnetic marriage course. I’m sure still, I’m sure you can still go over to Tony over Match.com magnetic and get all the info you need is the ability to sign up for the magnetic marriage course is live and it will be closing, I believe, on Saturday evening. But follow me on Instagram at Virtual Couch. And if you want the absolute latest info on signing up for the course or again, I’m sure if you go over to Tony Overbay dot com magnetic or shoot me an email through the website and I will answer any of your questions you have. So let’s talk about bunnies. And what I alluded to earlier is we were talking about this. One of the rules of life is to be kind just to be nice. So I gathered this information, this information on bunnies and are terrible health and is the answer to all our stress and illness. More kindness from Dr. Kelly Harding, who wrote this article on Psychology Today Dotcom. And this was posted in November of twenty nineteen. But this has been particularly something of interest to me as I am speaking in my church and a couple of weeks and I’ll actually be speaking on this on a on a talk that was given earlier in in my church at a more global level that that addressed this kindness issue.

[00:04:51] So I’m going to speak to this and I’ve got a bunch of other ideas that I can’t wait to share. And so, again, the article by Dr. Harding is is the answer to all of our stress and illness more kindness? And here’s what the article talked about. Kind of go into a little more detail. She covered that in the late 1970s. Scientist Dr Robert Narim and his team designed a straightforward experiment to clarify the relationship between diet and heart health. And I love that that was where this article started, that the research was to talk about the relationship between diet and heart health back in the 70s, and they fed nearly genetically identical rabbits, the very same high fat diet. And at the end of the study, they expected that all the rabbits would have equally poor measures of health. Only they didn’t. And you can only imagine that when somebody is laying out the testing metrics to try to establish a baseline of sorts, that you have all these genetically identical rabbits and you feed them the same diet. I can only imagine that that the what they discovered wasn’t the actual goal of the test. So they didn’t find that all the rabbits were the same. One group of rabbits had significantly better. And we’re talking 60 percent better health outcomes than the others. And there was no explanation for the difference.

[00:06:00] So then Dr. Nerem noticed that the healthier rabbits were all tended by the same kind and caring young researcher, and she frequently held the rabbits. She talked to the rabbits. She played with the rabbit. So in other words, she gave these rabbits kindness. And so a radical idea emerged out of this study. Could the social world change biology? And again, we’re talking the 70s. This was pretty radical at the time and still kind of is. So the team decided to find out. They repeated the experiment with tightly controlled conditions and they got the same startling results. Kindness made all the difference. And this is what Dr. Harding had called the rabbit effect. And she said, as a doctor working in the emergency room, she thought the story made a lot of sense and it helped her understand what she would often see clinically, that patients who fear the worse with illness often lack social supports. And I have to tell you, in my practice, I see the same thing that I remember when I first got into the world of therapy that so often you want to jump in there and help you learn all of these interventions. You learn all these therapeutic modalities. You want to just help. You want to help in whatever way you can. And so often people just wanted to be heard. I’ve said it often to be heard is to be healed.

[00:07:06] And on so many occasions there were people that would come in and I would even start to talk and they would almost look at me like, what are you doing? I just want you to listen. I want empathy. And so that kindness or that empathy that we would exude oftentimes as a therapist was one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle in helping someone crawl out of the emotional doldrums. Or to rise from a pretty deep emotional quagmire of sorts and raise their emotional baseline. So Dr. Harding said that people usually think of health in terms of diet and exercise and sleep and doctor visits, access to quality medical care. While critical, she said, likely only accounts for about 10 to 20 percent of her overall health status. Even the influence of our genes is not as fixed as it was once believe. Hey, everybody, just a very, very quick break to talk about your mental health as a licensed marriage and family therapist, there is nothing that I love more than when people let me know that they started seeing a therapist or they found a counselor, especially one that works for them after listening to some episodes of the virtual couch. And I get that feedback more often than I ever anticipated when creating the Virtual Couch podcast. So if you are looking for a therapist and it can be a very difficult thing to do, and especially is the stigma of mental health continues to be eliminated.

[00:08:28] There are more and more therapists that I am aware of that have very full practices. So if that is the case, feel free to go to Betterhelp.com virtual couch there. You can be welcomed the world of online therapy, which has been happening ever since the worldwide pandemic hit. Let’s be honest, I used to not be telehealth, the kind of therapist and most of my practice went to the world of telehealth there during the pandemic and is only now being able to have more and more people in my office. So the world of a therapy is there betterhelp.com and the folks behind the make up of better help have been embracing telo therapy for the last several years. Now over a million people have found help through Betterhelp.com. Now go to Betterhelp.com, says Virtual Couch, and you’ll get 10 percent off of your first month’s treatment. Go do what over a million people have done. The intake process is simple. You’ll be talking with the therapists and as soon as 24 to 48 hours you can do it over the Internet. You can do email. There’s even people that are doing text therapy, which has been pretty darn effective. So you owe it to yourself. You owe it to those around you to go get help, whether it’s with anxiety or depression or OCD or any of those kind of things. You can find a licensed clinician in your in your area, but you can see them through the interweb.

[00:09:44] The Internet’s go to it today. Betterhelp.com says virtual couch. What are you waiting for? So for decades now, following Dr. Nereids initial study, there is ample research and public health and epigenetics and telomeres and the neuro and immune system that have revolutionized the understanding of health. And in her in the book, The Rabbit Effect, live longer, happier and healthier. With the groundbreaking science of kindness, Dr. Harding describes in detail how our health is greatly impacted by our social world. And so she said, here’s the big takeaway for us to thrive as individuals and communities, it’s time we put our emotional well-being first. And this is where I often talk about in the world of emotionally focused therapy, my favorite therapeutic modality for working with couples or groups or families that we are designed to deal with emotion in concert with another human being, that we are these attachment based creatures. And so it only makes sense that to be able to find a secure attachment or somebody that will listen, somebody that cares to know that we matter, that someone loves us, they’re there for us, that they have our back is what can truly make us our best selves. And I know one of the most downloaded episodes that I’ve done in the last few months was this episode on the concept of differentiation.

[00:10:53] And it’s been amazing. The concept of differentiation is a game changing concept. It’s that concept that says that you are allowed to have a connection with someone, but also maintain your own individual thoughts and feelings and emotions and that you can have this connection and that you don’t have to give up yourself, so to speak, that you can have a connection with someone and that you can still stay in your calm, confident energy and and be very present with this person, be very present with someone that you care about. And too often people feel like that they have to give in or acquiesce to a partner, that they have to just do whatever their partner says or else their partner won’t like them. And we’ve dealt with that on a lot of the previous episodes of The Virtual Couch, where I talk a lot about abandonment issues, attachment issues. But so we really do want this connection, this human connection with someone else. But too often it’s scary because of the the things that we bring into a relationship are baggage, so to speak, from our past, our childhood attachment wounds or abandonment issues that we bring forward into adulthood. And I won’t go into my big abandonment and attachment speech now. I think I was on a roll where about four or five podcast’s in a row. That’s about all I talked about. But if you look at it in a nutshell, when someone doesn’t respond the way that we want them to respond.

[00:12:08] So in essence, let me go back to my initial story. If I’m saying to my wife, I really think that I really swear that I’ve told you this thing before. And she responds back to me and says, I don’t remember that. It’s still hard. My programing says that that is a deep abandonment issue. It says that if for some reason she’s not responding the way that I want her to, that that means that something must be wrong with me, that she must not care about me, that I must not be able to deliver my message correctly. But in reality, we’re just two human beings having an experience. I thought that I expressed something to her and I thought that she had remembered it. And she clearly in that moment doesn’t remember having that conversation. No harm, no foul. We’re both just putting some information out there to connect with so it doesn’t do me any good to say, oh, man, I thought that you would remember what I said. I can’t believe you didn’t remember what I said because. Basically, I’m coming with my childhood abandonment wounds, saying I must be broken, something must be wrong with me, I must be unlovable. If for some reason you are not responding the way I think that you should respond. And then those attachment wounds with those look like those attachment issues that we bring forth into our adulthood or into our marriage are those same things that as a kid, those were the ways that we that we gained attention.

[00:13:16] The attachment wounds, so to speak, are the ways that we had to present ourselves in order for people to like us. Did we have to be the strong, confident type that we have to be the smart person, that we have to be the very empathetic person that we were, we the scholar, where we the athlete, but now we are just ourselves. We are a combination of all of the things that bring us to this very moment in life. And so when we show up in a relationship, the goal is to be able to show up and express ourselves confidently. And then if our spouse or partner doesn’t respond the way that we would like for them to respond, that’s OK. One of the hardest things that you learn or one of the most powerful things that you learn when you study the concept of differentiation is the ability to tolerate distress or tolerate invalidation that we are going to put ourselves out there on a number of occasions, on a daily basis. And if people don’t respond, that’s going to feel like we’ve been invalidated. And that’s OK. Sometimes it’s hard to sit with that for a moment because we go back to this. What’s wrong with me? But nothing is wrong with you.

[00:14:16] It’s we’re just living this human experience and trying to interact and communicate with people, which goes back to the initial conversation that we’re having today, which is about kindness that in the end, doesn’t kindness end up ruling the day? Isn’t kindness the things that keep people engaged in a conversation? So back to this article by Dr Harding that she’s talking about this big take away that for us to thrive as individuals and in communities, that we need to put our emotional wellbeing first, that we need to lead with this empathy, that we need to lead with this kindness. Now, what does that look like? Kindness on two fronts. If I express myself and I think that my wife has heard me or that I’ve already expressed this before, kindness on my end is to say, oh, my bad. I thought I shared that before. But let me let me talk about that again. Let me express myself again. Kindness on the on the responder. Kindness on the listener might be. Oh, man, I’m I’m sorry if you feel like you have shared that. I don’t remember it, but I would love to hear you share that story again. So you’ve got kindness going on both directions. So she said, for those of us in the mental health field, this is back to Dr Harding. We know that no no one exists in isolation because every human being is a part of a complex, interrelated system, she said.

[00:15:22] We also see that mental health too often takes a back seat to physical health. Or is that the truth, that services are too few or too costly? Or there’s a stigma that prevents people from getting the care that they deserve? According to the World Health Organization, only one percent of global aid goes toward mental health, even though depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. So since overhauling the global health system seems a bit overwhelming and probably not something that’s going to happen in the immediate future, what do we do? Dr Harding says that you can cause positive change and boost the health of the people around you, whether you work in health care or not. But it comes down to kindness. And I’m going to add it comes down to empathy about tell me more about that. What’s that like for you learning those phrases that those just are reflexive, that those come from you, those flow like water, how we treat each other and every aspect of our day to day lives absolutely matters. And our individual our collective health isn’t just happening at appointments in hospitals or clinics, but in our everyday experiences. You know, I often have clients dig into their values. There’s a values worksheet that I love doing with a client. And one of the most powerful things you can do is absolutely learn what are your core values, not the values that you feel like you should have or the values that your parents or your leaders or your anyone around you has told you you should really care about this, but actual values that matter to you.

[00:16:37] And one of the values that I often find that people do have is a value of connection, connection to others. It might be scary or they may not know how to have connection with others. But when I help people identify what their core values are, we narrow it down to four or five truly core values. Then I’d like to come up with a value based activity that they can do. So when somebody feels a little bit down or they feel stuck or they feel like they don’t know what to do, that you turn to one of these value based goals or value based activities. So if one of those is connection or kindness to someone, then you can if you are feeling that way, instead of turn into just pictures on your phone or playing a game or that sort of thing, you can make a connection. You can just scroll down your phone and pick somebody that You haven’t sent a message to in a while and shoot him a text or go. And if you’re if you’re a big social media person, that, again, instead of just looking at pictures and maybe doing comparisons or sometimes feeling bad about yourself, but it’s go in there and connect or communicate or comment on someone that you feel like what a beautiful kid or looks like a fun vacation or that sort of thing.

[00:17:34] So, again, a single act of kindness, Dr. Harding says, isn’t necessarily a one off. Instead, like this, this entire kindness mindset can create a ripple effect of good, she said. Just as a series of rude incidents can make us feel ill, cascading good acts help us thrive as individuals and communities and by recognizing. All that we have in common, we have more power to shift destiny for ourselves and others than we might realize, and I love it. Dr. Harding said that sometimes she imagines a makeover to our world in the form of a movie montage. And I can’t tell you if you are a client that has worked with me. I often talk about here’s the movie montage, part of your life where the music kicks in and all of a sudden you’re working hard and, you know, maybe you’ve got a lab coat on, you’ve got a dry erase board and you’re drawing out diagrams or whatever it looks like. But I love this concept of thinking in terms of the movie montage when you really start to take action and put parts of your life together. But she said, like in Rocky or Groundhog Day, this movie montage, she said, how might our world transform if we all treated one another with dignity and kindness? And maybe, she said if her morning had gone differently, she would arrive at work in a better mood.

[00:18:36] She’d been more willing to troubleshoot with a colleague instead of hiding out in her office. Or maybe a kid sitting by themselves in a cafeteria finds himself after a kind of exchange with a classmate participating in the lunchtime Minecraft Club or a father embraces his estranged son or a woman asking for change on the street finds herself in an apartment sitting down to a candlelight dinner with friends. So perhaps of a vacant lot filled with broken glass, Dr. Harding says, becomes a grassy playground filled with kids. But how can you imagine kindness transforming the world? And that’s where that led right back to author Henry James telling his nephew, three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. So now here we go. We’re over a century later and now we have scientific evidence that shows that, quote is actually speaking to our health and to our communities. And I want to throw a little bit of a callback to an episode that I did. It was longer ago than I thought. I believe it is episode two hundred twenty five. So 40 episodes ago. And it was on something called the expectancy effect and what the expectancy effect was.

[00:19:39] This is from an article from the website called Science of People.com. And it’s five and seven Edwards, and she’s a national best selling author and founder of the popular website The Science of People.com, and she wrote the book Captivate the Science of Succeeding with People. And she talked about the expectancy effect. So let me read this. I quoted this this study in session so often because it is absolutely fascinating. I want you to take this in the context of this kindness that we’re talking about. So once upon a time, a pair of adventurous, adventurous researchers and participants undergo a very unique experiment. They were told that they had to train rats to quickly make it through a maze. Now, here’s the fun part. Half of the participants were told that they had maze bright rats that were carefully bred to be highly adept at completing mazes. So half of the participants had maze bright rats. They looked upon these rats as these things were champions. These rats were incredible. The other half were told that they had maze dull rats, that these guys were lazy. They had no training in completing mazes. So the participants had five days to train the rats to complete the maze. And after those five days, the maze bright rats were able to complete the task twice as fast as the maze dull rats.

[00:20:53] But of course, there’s a catch. Probably already see it coming. There was absolutely no difference between the two groups of rats. Both sets of participants got randomly selected rats with no maze experience at all. None of the rats had been trained to go through mazes at all. None of them were. It were these championship rats. None were these lazy rats. They were just a group of rats. And I even think about this. I didn’t talk about this in Episode two twenty five when I went into more detail, but I thought about this when we’re looking through or scrolling through social media, looking at pictures and that sort of thing. And we see, you know, the kids and they’re somebody else’s kid and their sport playing sports. So they’re on the beach or they’re, you know, they just got a perfect score and something or they just passed a driver’s test and maybe your kid failed the first round of their driver’s test. Do you look over at your kid and you think, man, the guy is a maze dull rat, you know, are you or do you see this? Your kid is amaze bright rat. And that’s the whole concept around the expectancy effect is that the rats are exactly the same. But the participants who were told that they had faster rats somehow than actually helped the rats perform better. And the study’s been repeated over and over again.

[00:21:59] It’s called the expectancy effect. So that expectancy effect is when someone expects a given result. That expectation unconsciously affects the outcome, a report of the expected result. So when a participant expects to have a certain kind of outcome, oftentimes they will without even realizing it, they’ll change their actions. They’ll change their behavior to actually get that exact outcome. And this concept can give you a lot of power, because when participants are told that they had a maze bright rat, they unconsciously change their training, they change their expectation, and they made those rats perform better. And when participants were told they had maze dull rats, they unconsciously became the worst teachers. They didn’t train the rats well at all. They felt like these rats are lazy. I mean, what am I supposed to do with a lazy rat? And so dozens of studies have proven the expectancy effect outside of the lab with rats and dogs and humans alike. And I think that’s one of the most fascinating, important things about the expectancy effect or about this concept that we’re talking about, of just kindness, is that the answer is truly to be kind, because do you view yourself as a maze bright or a maze dull rat? Do you have an expectancy effect that you can figure things out, that you can succeed? Or do you have an expectancy effect, though? It’s never going to work for me? Or do you look at your kids as maze Bright or maze dull kids? Do you look at your kids as if they are going to make it through that maze twice as fast as anyone else around them? Or do you put that expectation on them that what’s the point, it doesn’t matter? Or do you look at your spouse through that lens as well? Do you have a bright or a maze dull spouse? What you have is you have you you have your kids and you have your spouse.

[00:23:37] And so how we view them, a lot has to do with this expectancy effect. And I believe that underneath this expectancy effect truly is this concept that Henry James told his nephew that the most important thing in life is to be kind. The second is to be kind and the third is to be kind. So that’s all we have for today. Folks, I would I would love to encourage you to go throughout your day to day and take a look at that expectancy effect. What are you expecting of yourself? What are you expecting of your kids? What are you expecting of your spouse? And it isn’t expectations as then you better do this or there’s something that you better do. But, man, I believe in this person. I believe in myself. I believe in my kids. I believe in my spouse that this expectancy effect than meeting that expectancy effect with kindness. I feel like that might just be the answer to putting the whole path of humankind, the human beings, on the path of goodness, of kindness, because there’s a whole lot of struggle, of negativity, of animosity that’s that’s infiltrated a lot of good people, a lot of good areas right now.

[00:24:39] So that’s that’s my hope. My message for today is that we can truly lead with a little more kindness that we won’t waste as much emotional calories or emotional energy on the negativity and that we can have this expectation effect of ourselves to begin with, but also those around us that will truly that will truly be able to to find those things that we’re looking for in others and find the good in others and and bring out that expectancy effect so that we can all bump up our emotional baseline quite a bit, which I think will have a cumulative effect on not only you, your family, those around you, but sounds cliched and cheesy, but I’ll say it the entire world. All right. Hey, have an amazing, wonderful week and have another bonus episode coming up at the end of this week. More information on that, probably on Thursday, maybe Friday. And I will see you taking us out, as always. And, boy, what a perfect time for this song. It’s the wonderful, the talented Aurora Florence with her song. It’s wonderful because truly. Isn’t that what life is? I’ll see you next time

[00:25:36] On the virtual couch

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