Source: Association for Psychological Science
Providing help to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers can mitigate the impact of daily stressors on our emotions and our mental health, according to new research published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
“Our research shows that when we help others we can also help ourselves,” explains study author Emily Ansell of the Yale University School of Medicine. “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.”
We often turn to others for social support when we’re feeling stressed, but these new results suggest that proactively doing things for others may be another effective strategy for coping with everyday worries and strains.
“The holiday season can be a very stressful time, so think about giving directions, asking someone if they need help, or holding that elevator door over the next month,” Ansell adds. “It may end up helping you feel just a little bit better.”
Laboratory-based experiments have shown that providing support can help individuals cope with stress, increasing their experiences of positive emotion. To investigate whether this holds true in the context of everyday functioning in the real world, Ansell and co-authors Elizabeth B. Raposa (UCLA and Yale University School of Medicine) and Holly B. Laws (Yale University School of Medicine) conducted a study in which people used their smartphones to report on their feelings and experiences in daily life.
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