To improve mood you have to devote yourself to others, rather than to yourself. To suggest it is a new study.
When we get into a bad day, we tend to console ourselves with a little therapeutic shopping, with our favorite sweetness or with friends coming out in the hope of feeling better.
On the other hand, research has found that giving to others and practicing acts of kindness can improve our overall mood and well-being, as Dr. Katherine Nelson, principal author of the study and university assistant at Psychology at the University of South, to Sewanee, Tennessee.
“I was not surprised by the fact that prosocial behavior led people to experience stronger positive emotions and, consequently, greater prosperity,” Nelson said speaking of the study.
“However, I found it interesting to look at a particular aspect: when we direct these actions to ourselves, we see no improvement in our positive or negative emotions, nor in terms of psychological improvement,” he adds. “I think this is important because people are often exhorted to” pamper themselves “to feel good, yet our findings suggest that the best way to feel happy is to give others theirs.”
The study involved 473 volunteers, who were divided into four groups. Each group had different tasks to be completed within six weeks.
The first group was asked to practice acts of kindness to improve the world, such as collecting garbage. The second group has focused on acts of kindness to others, such as offering a coffee to a friend or helping a family member prepare for dinner.
Members of the third group were asked to complete acts of kindness to themselves, how to do more exercise or indulge in a vacation. The fourth group acted as a control group, without acting outside the usual activities.
Before and after the six weeks, all participants filled out a questionnaire assessing their psychological, emotional, and social well-being, and reported each week their positive and negative feelings during the study.
The researchers found that attendees who had done acts of kindness to the world or to specific people were more likely to experience a sense of happiness and mood improvement than those who had adopted behavior centered on their own person or neutral.
In fact, people who were entrusted with the task of adopting “selfish” behavior did not bring any improvement in general well-being or positive emotions, according to the study.
“Doing things for others gives us the chance to feel more intense positive emotions, such as joy, contentment and love,” said Nelson. “People can experience stronger emotions and, consequently, improve psychological health: when we are kind to others we cultivate our social relationships, or we can feel more proud of ourselves because we’ve done a good job.”
Past studies have shown that gestures of kindness are not only able to promote mental health but also our physical well-being. For example, another research suggests that an altruistic attitude can reduce blood pressure and stress.
Because it adds to the increasing number of tests, demonstrating that devoting to improving the well-being of others also pushes our well-being, in contrast to the popular myth that happiness can only be achieved by self-interest.
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