Caring about others is caring about yourself – it is not just a saying, but it has been scientifically proven. According to a new study, helping others reduces stress in one’s organism.
The study published in the online journal Clinical Psychological Science on December 10 by a team of researchers from Yale University and the University of California has analysed the impact of altruism on reducing stress.
Researchers recruited 77 adults from 18 to 44-years old without any mental health issues and without problems related to substance abuse.
The participants have been asked to fill out a diary for 14 days, in which they included all the factors of stress encountered during each day across some given domains, such as health, finance, home, work/education and all the altruist gestures they did, from holding the door for another person to helping others do their work. Scientists reminded all of them to complete the dairy through an automated phone call every evening.
The research team has used the Positive and Negative Affect Scale to assess the emotional wellbeing of the participants, who had to fill a self-report of their mental health on a scale from 0 to 100.
The results of the study have shown that engaging in helpful behaviors was benefic for the participants. Helping others was associated with increased levels of positive emotions and with a better state of mental health.
Besides all that, altruist behavior influenced the subjects’ response to stress. Those who engaged in more helpful situations showed a better response to daily stress and no increase of negative emotion. On the other side, those who were less helpful to others showed increase negative emotions resulted from daily stress. In conclusion, caring for others helped the subjects to be less affected by stress.
Researchers argue that further investigation is needed to determine if the findings differ across different ethnicities and cultures.
Another issue for further research is to determine if prompting people to be more altruist and helpful towards their peers would indeed impact their mental health, reducing their levels of stress. This would be extremely useful especially for people experiencing acute stress or depression.
However, no matter the results of future research, it is safe to say that helping others won’t do any harm and we all know that helping those in need makes us feel better. So we can all test the findings of this study, especially during the stressful period of the holidays, which is also the best time to help and care for others. Remember that caring about others is caring about yourself.
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