Most people learn from a very young age that helping others is the right thing to do. Children learn to share their toys and to be fair with others, simply because you’re supposed to treat others the way you want to be treated. But, a new study has proven that when you help others, you also help yourself.
A study from Yale University proves that helping others dampens the effects of everyday stress.
Emily Ansell, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University has conducted research that proves that actively making a move to make other people’s days easier can also make your own day easier.
“Our research shows that when we help others we can also help ourselves. Stressful days usually lead us to have a worse mood and poorer mental health, but our findings suggest that if we do small things for others, such as holding a door open for someone, we won’t feel as poorly on stressful days.”
Ansell led a study in which people reported their daily emotions on their smartphones.
Ansell teamed up with her co-authors Elizabeth B. Raposa (UCLA and Yale University School of Medicine) and Holly B. Laws (Yale University School of Medicine) to lead a study involving a total of 77 people ranging from 18 to 44 years old. They were asked to report on the number of stressful events that occurred each day, as well as any helpful behaviors (like holding a door open for someone or helping with homework) that they participated in during the day. They also completed a survey of experienced emotion and were asked to rate their mental health each day.
The results showed that helping others improved participants’ daily well-being.
People who didn’t help others very much reported lower positive emotions and higher negative ones. On the other hand, people who did help others more often reported lower negative emotions.
“It was surprising how strong and uniform the effects were across daily experiences. For example, if a participant did engage in more prosocial behaviors on stressful days there was essentially no impact of stress on positive emotion or daily mental health. And there was only a slight increase in negative emotion from stress if the participant engaged in more prosocial behaviors.”
The team plans to do more studies to see if these findings hold up with more people. But, the bottom line, for now, is that helping others does a whole of good for everyone, so there are plenty of reasons to be a positive force in the world.
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