Helping other people with their problems helps you too

Posted on May 17, 2017

As Oprah Winfrey famously said, 'Helping others is the way we help ourselves', there is now evidence showing that we can improve on our psychological states when we help others. Helping others is a fundamental part of humanity, and contrary to what you may have heard, helping others doesn’t always have to be a selfless act. You may actually help yourself while helping others.

Bruce Dore, Robert Morris, Daisy Burr, Rosalind Picard, and Kevin Ochsner explored this issue in an interesting way. In their study, participants were assigned to one of two web-based applications. One application asked participants to do some expressive writing about difficulties they face. The other participants took part in a social networking application in which they could post problems they were experiencing. In addition, they could view problems posted by other people. After reading other people’s posts, they could send messages of encouragement. The application was also designed to get people to send messages of reappraisal, which is when you take an issue and look at it from another perspective. Participants spent three weeks on the application in which they were assigned to. At the start and finish of the study, participants rated their degree of negative feelings, and symptoms of depression. In addition, participants were assessed on how often they used reappraisal as a strategy to deal with their problems.

Findings revealed that simply writing about problems did not affect people’s depression or negative mood. In addition, the number of times people posted about their own problems did not affect depression and mood. However, it was found that when people responded to other people with messages encouraging them to reappraise—that is to think about their problems in a different way—the more that they themselves experienced reduced symptoms of depression and elevated mood.

This study shows that helping others has benefits for the helper. By focusing on helping others in reappraising their situation, one is also influenced by his or her own strategies. That is, those who helped other people to reappraise began to use that strategy for themselves, and therefore experience a positive impact on their mood and level of depression. This is why helping others actually helps yourself.


Category(s):Happiness, Self help groups, Self-Care / Self Compassion

Source material from Psychology Today


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