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Scientific study concludes that helping others can mitigate the effects of daily stress

Offering help to friends, acquaintances and even strangers can mitigate the impact of daily stressors on our emotions and mental health. That’s what a survey published this month in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science in Washington, USA, says.

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“Our research shows that when we help others, we can also help ourselves,” explains study author Emily Ansell of Yale University School of Medicine.

“Stressful days often cause people to get in a bad mood and then worsen their mental health. But our results suggest that if we do small things for others, like holding an open door for someone, it makes the individual stop feeling so bad on busy days. ”

People often turn to others for support when they are feeling stressed. But the results of the study suggest that reversing this situation and doing things proactively for others may be another effective strategy for dealing with daily concerns and tensions.

“The holiday season, with so many parties and arrangements to make, can be a very oppressive time,” says Emily. So, according to her, taking the focus off yourself a little and thinking about the people around us and asking if they need help – offering to help with any trivial task, but showing interest – can end up helping everyone to feel best.

Emily Ansell relied on laboratory experiments that showed that support can help people cope with stress by increasing their experiences of positive emotion. She and two colleagues also from Yale conducted evaluations in which people used their smartphones to report on their feelings and experiences in daily life. 77 adults participated, between 18 and 44 years old, for 14 days.

Participants received a reminder by cell phone each night and made their daily assessment. They were asked to report any stressful events experienced that day in various domains (for example, interpersonal, work / education, home, finance, health) and the total number of events made up the daily stress measure.

They were also asked to report whether they had engaged in various behaviors towards other people (for example, holding a door, helping with homework, offering help with work).

Participants also completed forms on the Positive / Negative relationship of how they were affected by daily situations, a measure that is used to assess the scale of emotions – and they were asked to record their mental health status using a slider on a scale. ranging from 0 (bad) to 100 (excellent).

The results indicated that helping others boosted participants’ daily well-being. A greater number of helping behaviors was associated with higher levels of positive daily emotion and better mental health in general.

“It was surprising how strong and uniform the effects of helping others have influenced daily experiences,” explained Emily Ansell.

“Now, this can help to clarify whether prescribing prosocial behaviors [like volunteer work, for example] can be used as a potential intervention to deal with stress – particularly in individuals who are experiencing depression or acute stress,” she concludes…

We live in difficult and turbulent times. We are face to face with unprecedented global challenges. We observe climate and ecological changes, financial and economic crises. We also see hunger and infectious diseases, depression and anxiety, toxic relationships, terrorism and wars. It is precisely at those moments that we most need solidarity.

When we are unstable and confused, discredited by the other and the world. This is the time to show the best side of human nature: the side of love and compassion. The side that values ​​the common good above selfishness, individualism and self-centeredness. The advantage of this need for change is that being supportive of the other is not only good for the other. It also does for you.

Even though we know that it doesn’t take more than a few hours of the weekend to visit a home for needy children and donate clothes, food or toys, pay a visit to the asylum and share some moments with those in need, it makes it even more so. as much as possible looking for solidarity actions within the environments in which you are already inserted. At work, at school, in the neighborhood, in the condominium: how about joining a group to do community actions? Whether to take care of a community garden or to start a recycling process. Everywhere there is a way to be supportive.

The main point to start is to find a cause that makes sense to you, that you believe in and that drives you to continue. You can start to adopt small attitudes in your daily life or do volunteer work for a social institution. Even in your daily choices, like the food you eat and the products you use, it is already possible to be connected with an act of solidarity.

And for that, just start. After the first solidarity acts, it will already be remarkable how much acting for the other is good for us, generates energy, improves our health and drives the movement of good for good. We can’t do everything for everyone, but we can always do something for someone in the little bit of the universe that we have access to.

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