Any of you that know me will be startled by my headline as I am passionate about getting people to give up the evil weed.
The thing is there is something much better that you can do than give up anything this Lent – which has the added benefit of being great for your health.
Well at least that is according to research carried out in Michigan.
I am talking about kind deeds. Intentional activities, such as being kind to others, are important drivers of psychological wellbeing.
Research from the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan recently uncovered just how powerful good deeds could be. In a study of hundreds of elderly couples, researchers found that mortality was greatly reduced in individuals who reported giving help or emotional support to others, compared with those who did not.
The link between getting shopping for an elderly neighbour and reduced mortality are not immediately obvious. But there is strong scientific evidence for a beneficial effect of positive emotions, induced by doing things for others and thinking the best of people, on physical health and survival.
For instance, research subjects in a positive mood show much more rapid cardiovascular recovery from stress than those with negative mood. Healthy patterns (a peak in the morning and a twentyfold reduction by bedtime) in secretion of the stress hormone cortisol are associated with high scores on measures of wellbeing and the more positive the emotional style, the lower the risk of developing a cold.
So the message for Lent is, do as you would be done by. Being kind to others might actually make the greatest difference to your long-term health.
And you are spared giving up anything this lent – except maybe that seat on the bus.
Here in the UK the Oxford diocese is to commence a text service from February 19th. You will be be able to send a text to it’s Lent hotline (text 64343) and get back a suggestion for a good deed, such as giving your place in a queue to someone else.
There is another reason to not give up smoking, or indeed booze or chocolate for Lent – and I will address that one in my next post.