Stress tends to weigh people down, hindering their ability to celebrate and let loose, even on the holiday season. According to a new study, there is simple and cost-effective way to avert the effects of stress: performing acts of kindness.

Daily activities can sometimes cause stress, posing serious negative impacts on the physical body, emotions and even mental health. Hence, reversing its effects is vital to promote holistic health and overall wellness.

In the study published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the researchers found that there is a natural way to help relieve the impact of stress on health, and that is through helping others.

The research, led by Emily Ansell of the Yale University School of Medicine, recruited 77 adults between the ages of 18 and 44 years old. The participants received an automated phone reminder every night for them to answer a daily assessment questionnaire.

Reports of stressful life events each day across aspects such as relationships, work, education, home, finance, health and accidents were recorded. In addition, they also reported showing various helpful behaviors towards others, performing acts of kindness. The consequent different emotions they experienced were also taken note of.

The researchers found that those who performed more acts of kindness throughout the day were less likely to report negative emotions. They were also able to maintain their positive emotions. However, during the days in which they were not able to perform kind acts, the participants reported a decrease in positive emotions in response to daily stressors.

"Our research shows that when we help others we can also help ourselves," Emily Ansell said in a press release.

"Stressful days usually lead us to have a worse mood and poorer mental health, but our findings suggest that if we do small things for others, such as holding a door open for someone, we won't feel as poorly on stressful days," she added.

However, the researchers believe that further studies are needed to analyse the theory's applicability across diverse populations. In the meantime, however, Ansell says that as the holiday season's rush may impose high stress levels to people, the study will help people realize that simple acts of helping others may reduce stress.

"Findings suggest that affiliative behavior may be an important component of coping with stress and indicate that engaging in prosocial behavior might be an effective strategy for reducing the impact of stress on emotional functioning," the researchers concluded in the study. 

Photo: Darinka Maja | Flickr

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