This is a study that reaffirms the importance of social ties, even when we are at our lowest.
Published in the Journal of Positive Psychology (Source 1), this indicates that performing good deeds for others would allow anxious or depressed people to reduce their symptoms and feel better.
“Social connection is one of the ingredients of life most strongly associated with well-being. Performing acts of kindness seems to be one of the best ways to foster these relationships.”, said David Cregg, study co-author and psychology researcher at Ohio State University (USA). “We often think that people with depression have enough to deal with, so we don’t want to burden them by asking them to help others. But these results go against that.”added Jennifer Cheavens, professor of psychology at Ohio State University and co-author of the study, in a press release (Source 2).
Restore the taste for life and recreate the link
The study was conducted among 122 people with moderate to severe symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. The participants were divided into three groups: two were assigned to techniques often used in cognitive behavioral therapy for depression: planning pleasant or satisfying activities, or cognitive reassessment (trying to see the bright side of things), both two days a week.
The third group was instructed to perform three so-called “acts of kindness” per day, two days a week. The acts in question were defined as “big or small acts that benefit others or make them happy, usually at some cost to you in terms of time or resources”. Which includes for example making cookies for friends, or being able to leave notes of gratitude or encouragement for someone.
All participants followed these instructions for a total of ten weeks, with an initial evaluation of the results after five weeks.
Verdict: While participants in all three groups saw their life satisfaction increase, as well as their symptoms decrease, people in the kindness-affiliated group showed more significant improvements in these two aspects. In addition, these activities made them feel more connected to others, “which is an important element of well-being”, emphasizes David Cregg.
And Jennifer Cheavens added: “Do great things for people and focus on the needs of others may actually help people with depression and anxiety feel better about themselves”, forgetting their condition a little.
The researchers do not however invite depressed people to give up cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. The ideal is to follow this type of therapy while engaging in acts of kindness, which have the advantage of creating or maintaining social ties.