By Kelli Harding, MD, MPH

Title: The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness (2019)

Who is Kelli Harding?: Kelli Harding is a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City who also worked as an emergency room doctor for much of her career. 

Amava Take: Years ago in a research lab, some rabbits were fed an ultra high-fat diet for months. As the researchers expected, all the rabbits had high cholesterol, but one group of rabbits inexplicably had 60 percent fewer fatty deposits in their arteries than the others. It turns out that the only difference was that one of the researchers petted the rabbits, talked to them, and cuddled with them and that only her rabbits were healthier. Harding labels this the “Rabbit Effect” and explains that the same factors apply with humans. She convincingly shows that the social dimension has an enormous impact on our health–factors such as connection, purpose and how we interact with our communities. Harding uses many examples from daily life in explaining the connection between mental and physical health. Most importantly, she gives readers specific actions they can take to improve their happiness and their health.

Memorable Line: “It’s true that love doesn’t magically — poof — clear up a rash, heal a broken bone, or cure cancer…Studying the hidden factors and their ripple effect, we know kindness and connection help prevent disease and reduce illness severity….and to cultivate relationships, contribute to our communities, and be kind costs nothing.”     

What We’d Tell Our Friends: Given all the uncertainty in the world right now, this book’s positive message about the effects of kindness is both timely and reassuring. Even if you thought it was the right thing to practice kindness and compassion, this book shows how doing so not only benefits others, but also influences and improves your own mental and physical health and so ultimately enhances your overall life.