Is the holiday season causing you even more stress than normal? A new study found that helping someone could reduce some of your daily stress – and the best part that helping isn’t limited to friends or family. Acquaintances or even strangers fit the profile for lowering your stress.
For the study, researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine and the University of California, Los Angeles, enrolled 77 adults aged 18 to 44. We normally seek help from others when we are stressed, but they found that doing something for others instead could really boost one’s mood.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal; even the smallest of things, such as holding the door open for someone else, can do the trick. Negative emotions saw an increase in those with lower amount of helping acts throughout the day, whereas their positive response remained at low levels.
However, the researchers said it was noteworthy that their study had several limitations – such as the demographics of the participants – and that it needed some broader way of measuring stress.
The participants’ response to everyday stress was also influenced by the helping behavior, leading researchers to directly link lower positive emotions and higher negative emotions to less inclination toward helping behavior.
Given that Christmas is just around the corner – exactly 10 days away – researchers couldn’t find a better timing to prove that we help ourselves when we help others. You’re basically taking care of your mental health when you engage in more prosocial behaviors, especially on stressful days.
The helpful behaviors measured in the studied varied from holding a door open, to helping a neighbor with schoolwork and asking someone if they needed help with washing the dishes.
Participants were encouraged to engage in such prosocial behaviors rather than focusing on how stressful the day was, which had a tremendous positive effect on their mental health and emotional wellbeing. According to study author Emily Ansell, these results were “strong and uniform” across all ages.
Use what’s left of December to help others – if not for their own good, maybe for yours. During such a stressful time, giving directions or holding that elevator door for your co-worker could go a long mile.
Researchers also believe this discovery could help in developing new therapies for people who suffer from anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues.
Image Source: Stress No More