Helping others is good for your health

Doing good for others is good for your health. New research has uncovered the helper's halo - the ability to lower stress, increase happiness levels, boost self esteem and reduce anger, simply by being more considerate and doing good deeds for others.

The study, supported by Simplyhealth and carried out by scientists at Mindlab International, investigated whether improvements to physical and psychological health can actually be gained by carrying out altruistic acts, and follows similar research carried out by Harvard University two decades ago.

Key findings included:

  • Average increase in self-esteem by 31%
  • Stress levels lowered amongst the group by 36%
  • Reported feelings of anger reduced by a quarter
  • An increase in positive thoughts and feelings
  • Awareness of other people's feelings and empathy towards members of the community increased from 71% to 81%

Participants between 18 and 55 were recruited by Mindlab and asked to go out into their local community and perform simple, random, selfless tasks of their choosing for nine days. Acts included, giving someone money for a parking ticket if they had no change for the machine, painting a neighbour's garden fence and clearing their basement and tending to a friend's allotment when they were on holiday.

A series of experiments and laboratory tests were carried out on each of the participants before and after the trial. These include the monitoring of electrodermal activity skin conductance that is a sensitive measure of stress levels in humans, heart rate and four psychological assessments to quantify emotional states and personality traits.

Dr David Lewis-Hodgson of Mind lab International comments: "Put simply, everyone wins - doing good things for others can not only make them feel good, but it has a health benefit to you too. Making an individual happy by taking time out to think about them leads that person to do the same for someone else, so spreading those feelings of wellbeing.”

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