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Helping Others Alleviates Negative Effects of Stress

When we help others, we are only helping ourselves – a new study has proven this concept, showing that extending a helping hand to friends and strangers alike improves well-being pertaining to the effects of daily stress. The research paper is published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.

helping each other

Stress impacts negatively on our mental health and is associated with a number of other physical ills. An easy way to protect ourselves from its destructive effects would be to lend a helping hand to others – deeds as simple as maintaining a door open for someone, points out the researcher behind the study, Emily Ansell from the Yale University School of Medicine.

To test whether helping others causes one to feel more positive emotions, the researchers asked the participants to share their daily experiences and feelings, via their smartphone, pertaining to any stressful event that happened to them during the day. They also had to report any instance whereby they helped another individual. A shorter form of the Positive and Negative Affect Scale was used to measure their experienced emotions. They were additionally to rate their mental health using scores 0 to 100.

The findings that were generated from the survey are in contrast with what we would normally do when stressed: seeking help from others. Rather, self-healing by supporting another will also constitute an effective strategy to deal with the worries and preoccupations of daily life. Helping others was shown to boost the daily well-being of the volunteers. Furthermore, the more one indulged in helping behaviours, the greater was one’s level of daily positive emotion. The general mental health of the participants was also better.

This might be even more relevant at this time of the year when people are bound to experience stressful moments given the festivities that are to come. Ansell exemplifies the results of the study by suggesting that giving directions to someone, or offering help, or even keeping the elevator door open, might aid people to feel a “little bit better”.

Another important finding entailed the people’s response to stress. Their helping behaviour seemed to affect their stress management. Reporting less helping behaviour than on other days was coupled with higher negative emotion as a response to high stress experienced daily. On the other hand, those who would report helping behaviour to a greater extent than their usual routine had no decreased positive emotion or worsened mental health; they also reported only a lower increase in negative emotion in response to high daily stress. It appears that helping others buffers the adverse effects of stress on one’s well-being.

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