Holding the elevator door for someone, giving up your seat for a pregnant woman or disabled person, and paying it forward with a cup of coffee are insanely easy ways to make someone's day that'll make you feel good about yourself, even just for a moment. And now, new research suggests that such kind gestures can also help to reduce stress and ultimately improve your mental health, according to a report by CBS News.
A new study by researchers at Yale University and UCLA finds that providing help to friends, acquaintances, and strangers can help diffuse everyday stress, and basically, make you feel better. This is particularly good to know now, when people are stressed the hell out over traveling, gift giving, and hooking up with coworkers at the office holiday party.
“Our research shows that when we help others we can also help ourselves,” said Emily Ansell, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale, in a press release. “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.”
The study, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, focused on 77 adults, aged 18-44, who were asked to report their experiences and emotions for 14 days by completing a daily assessment on a smartphone. The results show that participants who said they helped others also reported increased well-being, and better yet, more acts of kindness were associated with feeling better and improving overall mental health every day. And here you were thinking all you'd get is good karma.
“It was surprising how strong and uniform the effects were across daily experiences,” Ansell said in the release. “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."
So, even if you're a self-centered dick, just look at it this way: you can be selfish by doing something selfless for someone else. (Or, you can just stop being a dick.)
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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and loves helping others, because it really does feel great. Send news tips to email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.