publication date: Sep 23, 2011
Yet another study
reports that giving and volunteering lead to happiness. What's more, the boost
in mood stays with you for months, according to research out of York University
. More than 700 people
took part in a study which charted the effects of being nice to others, in
small doses, over the course of a week.
participants to act compassionately towards someone for five to 15 minutes a
day, by actively helping or interacting with them in a supportive and
considerate manner. Six months after that week, participants were still
reporting increased happiness and self-esteem.
Minutes a day can change your life
"The concept of
compassion and kindness resonates with so many religious traditions, yet it has
received little empirical evidence until recently," says lead author Myriam Mongrain
, associate professor of
psychology in York's Faculty of Health.
"What's amazing is
that the time investment required for these changes to occur is so small. We're
talking about mere minutes a day," she continues.
levels of depression, happiness and self-esteem were assessed at the study's
onset, and at four subsequent points over the following six months. Those in
the group acting compassionately reported significantly greater increases in
self-esteem and happiness at six months compared to those in the control group.
Charity, self-esteem: what's the
So why does doing
good for others make us feel good about ourselves?
"We reaffirm that
we are ‘good,' which is a highly-valued trait in our society. It is also
possible that being kind to others may help us be kind to ourselves," Mongrain
says. She notes that previous studies have demonstrated a causal relationship
between compassionate behaviours and charitable self-evaluations.
both ways," she explains. "If you make a conscious decision to not be so hard
on others, it becomes easier to not be so hard on yourself. Furthermore,
providing support to others often means that we will get support back. That is
why caring for and helping others may be the best possible thing we can do for
ourselves. On a less selfish level, there is something intrinsically satisfying
about helping others and witnessing their gratitude," says Mongrain.
Compassion adds meaning
research has also shown that compassionate activities increase the level of
meaning in one's life, which in turn elevates levels of happiness.
expected that those with needy personalities would experience greater
reductions in depressive symptoms and greater increases in happiness and
self-esteem as a result of being kind to others.
"We hypothesized this would occur
as a result of the reassurance [needy personalities] might extract from
positive exchanges with others," Mongrain says. "We did see some reduction in
depressive symptoms for anxiously attached individuals, but further research is
needed to see if there is any long-term benefit."
The study, "Practicing
Compassion Increases Happiness and Self-Esteem" appeared in the spring 2011 issue
of the Journal of Happiness Studies
. It is co-authored by York
University researchers Jacqueline Chin
For more information, Melissa Hughes, Media
Relations, York University, 416-736-2100 x22097, firstname.lastname@example.org