Interest Rates are up, Grocery prices are up, Gas prices are up and social security did not go up nearly enough to make a dent in any of it. We have had 2 quarters of negative growth, some would call that a recession. The average American is under incredible pressure right now. What can be done to de-stress in such a difficult time? A Yale study shows that helping others is a proven way to help ourselves change our perspective and feel better.
Doctors Elizabeth B. Raposa, Holly B. Laws, Emily B. Ansell of Yale Psycology department studied 77 adults, ages 18 to 44, who gave a daily assessment by their smartphones for two weeks. Each day they reported any stressful events experienced. They also reported any helpful behaviors they engaged in that day (even small gestures like holding open a door), and they completed a 10-item Positive and Negative Affect Scale and rated their mental health each day using a sliding scale that ranged from 0 (poor) to 100 (excellent).
The study found that –the more helpful behaviors performed each day, the higher the level of daily positive emotion and better overall mental health. “Our research shows that when we help others we can also help ourselves,” said lead-study author Emily Ansell of the Yale University School of Medicine.
In other words, when we focus on helping others, our problems don’t seem so bad and we get positive reinforcement for improving the lives of those around us. I consider our focus to be a magnifying glass, if we point that glass on everything that is causing us difficulty, our problems seem worse and it may lead us to coping in negative ways. If we turn that focus on helping someone else, our problems fade into the background and we are actually given, as Dr. Leo Marvin, in What about Bob, puts it: “a vacation from our problems.” As shown in the study it can be something as simple as opening the door for someone, taking a friend some cookies, or helping someone in real need. My mother knew this principle very well. All through my childhood, I remember a hand written note taped to our fridge with the letters – HIDAGITWT. This was to remind her “Have I Done Any Good In The World Today”. She focused on doing something for another every day. She had cancer 4 different times and knew what it meant to feel massive stress in facing your own mortality, her first bout at 26 years old. I remember when she had stage 4 cancer she prepared a wonderful meal to give to a friend dinner that was having her own health problems. It gave her great peace and perspective to comfort another.
If you are looking for places that you can help lift another a great resource is the www.justserve.org page, you can find local service opportunities with organizations like the red cross, churches, women’s shelters, hospitals, and other volunteer organizations; in my local area there were 253 different places to help. There is also work from home service opportunities.
Robert Krepps, NMLS #255191, at HighTechLending Inc. HighTechLending Inc, NMLS # 7147, is an Equal Housing Lender. Licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act.