Most people who ‘pay it forward’ or carry out a random act of kindness soon realise that they benefit from their actions as much as the person on the receiving end of their benevolence. If you’ve never done it, you should try it!
New research has found that giving someone a helping hand not only makes us feel good, it’s also a surprisingly good way to combat everyday stress.
Clinical psychologist, Dr Emily Ansell, led a study where a group of adults reported on their daily lives over a two-week period. Every day they listed stressful events that they had endured and the times that they had given someone a helping hand. It didn’t matter how small the gesture was. They included moments like opening a door for someone and even just asking if someone needed help.
What the study found was that helping others led to a buffering of the givers emotions against stress and made them feel happier.
Dr Ansell explained,
“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. It was surprising how strong and uniform the effects were across daily experiences.
For example, if a participant did engage in more prosocial behaviours 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 behaviours.”
It would be very interesting to see what would happen if everyone dealt with their stress in this way. Can you imagine what that would be like?
The study was published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science (Raposa et al., 2015).
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