It’s often said that it’s better to give than receive but did you know that this is actually backed up by research?
While many of us feel too stressed and busy to worry about helping others or say we’ll focus on doing good deeds when we have more ‘spare time’, evidence shows that helping others is actually beneficial for your own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress, improve your emotional wellbeing and even benefit your physical health.
In one of the studies, published last year in the Journal of Social Psychology, researchers in Great Britain had participants take a survey measuring life satisfaction, and then they assigned all 86 participants to one of three groups. One group was instructed to perform a daily act of kindness for the next 10 days. Another group was also told to do something new each day over those 10 days. A third group received no instructions.
After the 10 days were up, the researchers asked the participants to complete the life satisfaction survey again.
The groups that practiced kindness and engaged in novel acts both experienced a significant—and roughly equal—boost in happiness; the third group didn’t get any happier. The findings suggest that good deeds do in fact make people feel good—even when performed over as little as 10 days—and there may be particular benefits to varying our acts of kindness, as novelty seems linked to happiness as well.
Being kind to others has a positive outcome on the person’s health and wellbeing, both, physically and emotionally. For instance, when you aid others, it promotes positive physiological transformations in the brain associated with bliss. These rushes are often followed by longer periods of calm and can eventually lead to better wellbeing. Helping others boosts social support, inspires us to lead a more physically active lifestyle, diverts us from our own issues, permits us to engage in a paramount activity and ameliorates our self-esteem and competence. Not only that but it also brings a sense of belonging and reduces isolation through face-to-face activities such as volunteering.
Showing and expressing kindness towards others helps to keep things in perspective Many people don’t realize the impact that a different perspective can have on their outlook on life. Helping others in need, especially those who are less fortunate than yourself, can provide a real sense of perspective and make you realize how lucky you are, enabling you to stop focusing on what you feel you are missing – helping you to achieve a more positive outlook on the things that may be causing you stress.