The scientific reason why helping others makes you feel so good

The scientific reason why helping others makes you feel so good

Helping out during the coronavirus outbreak doesn’t just have the power to make a difference to the lives of others – it can boost your mood, too.     

In the age of coronavirus, helping someone out – whether that’s an elderly neighbour, lonely friend or vulnerable family member – is more important than ever.

Despite all the scary things going on in the world right now, the acts of kindness we’ve seen as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have restored our faith in humanity – and there’s plenty of ways we can all lend a helping hand during this difficult time. 

Helping someone out doesn’t just make a difference to the person who needs it – it can make us feel good, too. There’s a scientific reason for this; a 2019 study from the University of Oulu in Finland on the subject of compassion – one of the first major studies on the topic – has found that greater levels of compassion will lead to greater wellbeing, more happiness, a positive mood and social connections and, overall, an increased satisfaction in life.

The study makes the important distinction between compassion and empathy when it comes to happiness. Compassion, as author Aino Saarinen describes it, is “concern for other’s suffering and a desire to alleviate it”, while empathy is merely the sharing of such suffering.

The key here is that compassion is solutions-focused, while empathy is merely about understanding. As Saarinen notes in the study, too much empathy can actually be a bad thing in that sense. An empathy surplus an lead to “increased stress levels” as you take on other people’s suffering without – or being unable to – promote solutions for that suffering.

Giving help when someone asks for it is a kind and generous thing 

Compassion, on the other hand, offers a way forward. By practicing as much compassion in your life as you can, you can improve the lives of those around you as well as your own.

This study, which looked at 3,596 participants in six different age groups over the course of 15 years, found that those with high levels of compassion had a higher wellbeing throughout the study. Those who felt a greater degree of compassion for others were more satisfied, more optimistic and more socially supported than those who did not. 

Helping others is an important way to support those around you. But it will always make you happier, too. 

Images: Getty, Unsplash

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