A New Study Published Suggests that Performing Acts of Kindness May Help with Depression and Anxiety
A recent study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology studied the impact of performing acts of kindness on a person’s mental health. The researchers gathered 122 people and split them into three groups. Two of the groups were tasked to do techniques often used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for their depression: planning social activities or cognitive appraisal (identifying negative thought patterns and changing them to positive ones). The participants of the third group were told to perform three acts of kindness a day for two days out of the week.
All groups followed their instructions for ten weeks.
At the end of the ten weeks, researchers found that all groups had an increase in life satisfaction, and a reduction of their depression and anxiety symptoms; however, the third group who performed the acts of kindness had improvements not seen in the other two.
The acts of kindness group felt they had a greater social connection to others in addition to the other two benefits. Even the other groups who were told to plan social activities did not improve their feelings of social connection.
“There’s something specific about performing acts of kindness that makes people feel connected to others,” said co-author Jennifer Cheavens. “It’s not enough to just be around other people, participating in social activities.”
Social connection is defined as an internal sense of belonging and interpersonal closeness with others. People with depression and anxiety often report a feeling of disconnect with those around them, which means they tend to have lower social connectedness.
While more research needs to be done on acts of kindness as an intervention, what is apparent is that social connection is important for overall well-being, and performing these acts can help boost that connection. Something simple as offering a friend a ride home, leaving sticky notes with words of encouragement for loved ones, baking cookies for others, or even handing out a Love Button can help people struggling with depression and anxiety.
Try and give some love to those around you – it might just change your life as much as theirs.
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