While performing small, kind gestures every day helps others, a new study by Yale and UCLA researchers suggests it may also diffuse our own stress, improving our mental health.
The research published in Clinical Psychological Science asked 77 adults, ranging in age from 18 to 44, to use a study-provided smartphone to report their daily feelings and experiences over a two-week period.
Every night, the participants received an automated phone reminder that prompted them to complete a daily assessment: to report any stressful life events they experienced that day at work or school or in their personal lives at home, including any financial problems or health issues. The total number of events was the measure of their daily stress level.
Participants were also asked to report whether they had engaged in various helpful behaviors, such as opening a door for someone else, loaning money to someone else, or simply asking another person if they needed help that day.
The participants also completed a daily survey that measured their emotion and they were asked to rate their mental health each day, rating it from 0 for poor to 100 for excellent.
Helping behaviors seemed to buffer the negative effects of stress on a person’s well-being, the findings found.
Those who reported performing more acts of kindness showed no dips in positive emotion or mental health – and they had lower increases in negative emotion in response to high daily stress.
People who reported lower-than-usual helping behaviours also reported lower positive emotion and higher negative emotion in response to high daily stress.
Read the full story, originally reported by CBS News here: http://goo.gl/QVbWsv