Posts tagged with "Prosocial behaviors"

This holiday season, try being kind to ‘unwind’

December 21, 2018

While performing random acts of kindness definitely helps others, a study conducted in 2015 by researchers at Yale University and UCLA suggests that doing good also might be good for us—diffusing our own stress and improving our mental health.

“The take-home message is that, when we are stressed and we help others, we can also end up helping ourselves,” Emily Ansell, assistant professor of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, told CBS News in an interview.

Ansell conducted the study along with co-authors Holly Laws, also of Yale’s School of Medicine; and Elizabeth Raposa, who was then at UCLA and is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. It was published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association of Psychological Science. –

“The holiday season can be a very stressful time, so think about giving directions, asking someone if they need help, or holding that elevator door,” Ansell said. “It may end up helping you feel just a little bit better.”

To investigate whether this holds true in the context of everyday functioning in the real world, the researchers fielded a study in which people used their smartphones to report on their feelings and experiences in daily life. A total of 77 adults, ranging from 18-44 years of age, participated in the 14-day study. People who suffered from substance dependences, diagnosed mental illness, or cognitive impairment were not included for participation.

The participants received an automated phone reminder every night that prompted them to complete their daily assessment. They were asked to report any stressful life events they experienced that day across several domains (such as interpersonal, work/education, home, finance, health/accident) and the total number of events comprised the measure of daily stress.

In addition, they were asked to report whether they had engaged in various helpful behaviors (like holding open a door, helping with schoolwork, and bringing someone an extra coffee) that day.

The participants also completed a ten-item short-form of the Positive and Negative Affect Scale, a well-validated measure of experienced emotion, and they were asked to rate their mental health for that day using a slider on a scale that ranged from 0 (poor) to 100 (excellent).

The results indicated that helping others boosted participants’ daily well-being. Those who performed a greater number of helping behaviors experienced higher levels of daily positive emotion and better overall mental health.

The opposite also was true: Participants who reported fewer-than-usual helping behaviors experienced less positive emotion and more negative emotion in response to high daily stress.

In other words, helping behavior seemed to buffer the negative effects of stress on well-being.

“It was surprising how strong and uniform the effects were across daily experiences,” Ansell told CBS News. “For example, if a participant did engage in more prosocial behaviors on stressful days there was essentially no impact of stress on positive emotion or daily mental health. And there was only a slight increase in negative emotion from stress if the participant engaged in more prosocial behaviors.”

One avenue for future investigation, the researchers said, is to determine whether actively prompting people to engage in more helping behavior can further improve their mood and mental health.

“This would help clarify whether prescribing prosocial behaviors can be used as a potential intervention to deal with stress, particularly in individuals who are experiencing depressed mood or high acute stress,” Ansell said.

Research contact: @emily_ansell

Just you wait: How to curb impatience

November 13, 2018

A woman in front of you on the checkout line actually is writing a check and digging in her bag for the required IDs. You clench your jaw. A driver stopped at the entrance to the parking garage cannot dislodge a ticket from the machine. You check your watch and hit your horn. A colleague is at the photocopier, carefully removing and replacing paper clips from documents, as she plows through large piles of materials. You consider asking if you can just cut in front for one image.

If these scenarios seems familiar, you are not alone. Impatience has reached epidemic proportions in America and we see signs of it everywhere—as bad manners, road rage, parking lot meltdowns, and more.

According to a November 5 report by The New York Times, patience is “the ability to keep calm in the face of disappointment, distress or suffering.”

Easier said than done, we know. But if you can master the skill, you’ll be rewarded with a variety of positive health outcomes, such as reducing depression and other negative emotions.

Researchers also have concluded, the Times reports, that patient people exhibit more “prosocial” behaviors—including empathy—and are more likely to display generosity and compassion.

A study conducted in 2012 by Sarah Schnitker—who was, at that time, an associate professor in the Thrive Center for Human Development at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California—identified three situations in which subject expressed patience: 1. Interpersonal, which is maintaining calm when dealing with someone who is upset, angry, or being a pest. 2. Life hardships, which is finding the silver lining after a serious setback. 3. Daily hassles, which is suppressing annoyance at delays or anything irritating that would inspire a snarky tweet.

However, even if none of these is in your own personal repertory yet; the good news, the Times reported, is that same study found that, even if you’re not a particularly patient person today, there’s still hope you can be a more patient person tomorrow.

So if you find yourself getting exasperated more than you’d like, here are ways to keep those testy impulses in check:

  • Identify your trigger(s): Figure out which situations set you off — careless drivers, technological glitches, slow-moving cashiers,— and you’re already on your way to taking control.
  • Interrupt the cycle and evaluate the risk: The idea is to take a step back from the situation and try to look at it objectively. Are you really in such a rush? What’s the actual consequence of standing in line another 10 minutes or restarting a finicky device? Do any of these outcomes constitute a life-or-death threat? The answer is almost always “no.”
  • Reframe the experience and connect it to a larger story: Are you annoyed with the coworker at the photocopy machine? Instead of dwelling on your irritation, you could think about the times when you have been the one who has frustrated others.

Another strategy recommended by Schnitker in an interview with the Times is to focus on why and how patience is integral to your values. “For instance,” she said, “if I were talking to a parent who is struggling with their kid, I’d say, ‘Well, first, let’s think about the really big picture: Why is being a parent an important role to you? What does that mean in your life?’”

Thinking about how patience ties into your larger sense of integrity and poise “will make it a whole lot easier to stick with practicing patience on a daily basis and building up those skills,” she added.

The most common mistake people make is thinking sheer will can turn them into a more patient person,  Schnitker said. If you do that, she cautions, you’re setting yourself up to fail.

Just as marathon runners don’t run a marathon on their first day of hitting the trails, people who are serious about cultivating patience shouldn’t expect immediate results.“You want to train, not try, for patience,” she said. “It’s important to do it habitually.”

Finally, recognizing your own triggers may help you to make remedial lifestyle changes. For example, if you detest being stuck in traffic, leave for appointments earlier. If you abhor crowded grocery stores, run your errands at off-hours.

Research contact: @AnnaGoldfarb