A new study has found that generosity is good for your mental health.
Once the mayhem of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has subsided, you’ll be pleased to hear a more charitable national holiday is on the agenda.
Giving Tuesday takes place annually and, in contrast to a period when the retail industry focuses on the need for attaining more stuff, it places the emphasis firmly back on doinggood stuff – all for charitable causes.
The warm glow of giving
If you’re under the impression that the only people to benefit will be those on the receiving end of the generosity, you’re mistaken.
Scientific research has shown that performing kind acts can be a big boost to your own mental health
It turns out that the ‘warm glow’ you can feel from altruistic behaviour is real – and what’s more, scientific research has shown that performing kind acts can be a big boost to your own mental health, even helping to alleviate depression.
In a recent study conducted at York University and published in Translational Issues in Psychological Science, more than 640 individuals suffering from mild depression were asked to take part in online compassion training. The people were split into groups, and were asked to take part in one of three online compassion intervention exercises (including a control group), for a period of two months.
It turns out that the ‘warm glow’ you can feel from altruistic behaviour is real.
At the end of the study, researchers found that when those who were deemed least likely to be kind did perform acts of kindness in close relationships, they showed the greatest reduction in depression and the greatest increase in life satisfaction.
‘Implementing these new behaviours might have left them feeling affirmed and liked in their close social circle. This might have been the anti-depressant ingredient in this group,’ says Myriam Mongrain, Professor of Psychology in York’s Faculty of Health, who led the study.
Is there such a thing as a selfless act?
But now you know there’s something in it for you, will that detract from the positive mental health benefits? After all, if you have something to gain, it means it’s not an entirely altruistic act, right?
Expressing compassion for those around you could be protecting your own mental health.
There’s no need to fear – in a separate study, undertaken at the University of Sussex and published in the journal NeuroImage, researchers found that you will experience the ‘warm glow’ of kindness, regardless of whether there’s something in it for you or not.
So be kind, act generously and express compassion for those around you (today and every day), and you could be protecting your own mental health.