Helping Others Could Be Good for Your Mental Health

Study shows small acts of kindness help us cope with stress
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2015 6:25 PM CST
Helping Others Could Be Good for Your Mental Health
A mime helps a woman cross a street in Caracas, Venezuela. A new study shows small acts of kindness can improve our mental wellbeing and help us deal with stress.   (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

It turns out getting in the holiday spirit can be good for your mental health. A study published last week in Clinical Psychological Science found performing small acts of kindness for others can give us an improved outlook on things and help us to better deal with stress. "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," researcher Emily Ansell says in an Association for Psychological Science press release. The findings suggest "prosocial behavior" might someday be a useful course of treatment for people suffering from chronic stress or depression.

Previous lab-based studies have shown similar results, but Ansell and her team wanted to see if they held true in the real world, CBS News reports. According to the press release, researchers had 77 adults use their smartphones to report stressful events, acts of kindness, and their emotional state every day for two weeks. CBS reports participants averaged one or two helpful acts per day. But those who logged more than that had improved well-being and were less affected by stress. "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 says in the press release. "It may end up helping you feel just a little bit better." (A cafe's act of kindness for grieving parents went viral.)

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