A new study titled "Prosocial Behavior Mitigates the Negative Effects of Stress in Everyday Life" and published in Clinical Psychological Science – the Association for Psychological Science’s (APS) newest journal, states that social good done to various people every day might help individuals cope with daily stressors at work, family, school, and everywhere.
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The new study establishes that rendering needed help to people boosts our mental health and emotional responses to stresses we encounter daily.
"Our research shows that when we help others we can also help ourselves," said 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."
There is no denying the fact that we turn to friends, family and coworkers for emotional support when passing through daily stresses, but the latest study provides that offering quality help and support to others helps relieve everyday strains and emotional worries.
"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," study author Ansell disclosed. "It may end up helping you feel just a little bit better."
Ansell teamed up with Elizabeth B. Raposa of UCLA and Yale University School of Medicine, and Holly B. Laws of Yale University School of Medicine to run a survey that required participants to report on daily experiences and feelings via their smartphones. Over a 14-day period, 77 participants with ages ranging from 18 to 44 years took part in the study.
A phone reminder was sent to the participants every evening, and this reminded them of the need to fill out the assessment for the particular day. They reported stresses they experienced that day in the interpersonal relationship, education, workplace, family, health, and finance among others – a combination of these experiences made up the stress for the day.
The participants also reported if they did any good deeds such as opening the door, helping an elderly person across the road, assisting with schoolwork, and asking people if they required any help with anything – for that particular day. Then using a Positive and Negative Affect Scale, the participants were asked to fill a short survey with only 10 items that rated their mental health for that day on a scale of 0-100 – where 0 is poor and 100 is excellent.
Final results indicated that most of the participants felt so well after doing a good deed to several people within the course of a day, and this helped them to deal with negative experiences they encountered for the day.
"It was surprising how strong and uniform the effects were across daily experiences," Ansell observed. "For example, if a participant did engage in more prosocial behaviors 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 behaviors."
While more studies will be needed to confirm whether the results of the study are true across all culturally and ethnically different populations, the researchers would still want to know whether asking people to do more social good to others would improve their own physical and mental health.
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"This would help clarify whether prescribing prosocial behaviors can be used as a potential intervention to deal with stress, particularly in individuals who are experiencing depressed mood or high acute stress," Ansell added.