Friday, January 19, 2018
Helping Others, Helps You, Research Indicates
The following contains excerpts from a post in the Greater Good Magazine that reports on two studies that indicate that by helping others, we do ourselves well. To read the entire post click "How Comforting Others Helps You with Your Own Struggles."
A new study in 2017 by researchers at Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that comforting others seems to serve as a kind of exercise that helps us deal with our own struggles.
While negative emotions feel isolating and personal, the best way to deal with them may be profoundly social.
Both studies also highlighted one skill that seemed to really benefit both other people and ourselves: perspective-taking, the part of empathy that involves understanding someone else’s point of view.
In the end, the researchers found that the more comments participants posted about other people’s problems—no matter what type of comment—the more the commenters’ happiness and mood increased and their depressive symptoms and rumination decreased over the course of the experiment. On the other hand, more active members of the control group didn’t reap the same benefits.
These positive changes were partly accounted for by commenters practicing reappraisal more often in their own daily lives. Responding itself—in other words, helping other people regulate their emotions—seemed to be training people in the very skills of emotion regulation. It didn’t seem to matter if participants helped each other with validation, reappraisal, or pointing out errors; the interaction itself was most important.
“Helping [others] regulate their emotional reactions to stressful situations may be a particularly powerful way to practice and hone our own regulation skills, which can then be applied to improve our own emotional well-being,” the researchers write.