My mother used to tell me that if I couldn’t say something nice, then I shouldn’t say anything at all. In my adulthood, I have learned tact and how to speak assertively, so I no longer completely subscribe to mom’s dictate to be kind. But I do still believe there is a lot to be gained through focusing on the positives, being nice and practicing random acts of kindness.
In fact, there is more and more research being published showing that prosocial behavior toward others helps the person practicing it. So I’d probably feel much better after a long work week taking my mom for a pedicure that I would if I just went for one myself. And giving the pre-teen in the line in front of me an extra 2 dollars to pay for their order when they come up short will help me feel happier today.
I have seen research that talks about the benefits of being the caretaker for a family member. Although there are many stresses, there are benefits in caring for an aging or ill family member. There are friends who have developed ‘Share the Care’ groups to help someone get to chemo. All of these things are positive, prosocial actions. Prosocial actions help people feel better, drop blood pressure, increase dopamine levels in the brain and increase personal sense of pride.
None of this is surprising to me. For years I have asked people how they feel when they can help a friend, be the shoulder to lean on or to cry on. Unequivocally everyone says that it makes them feel good to help someone they care about. How do you feel when you car pool a sick friend’s kids? When you bring in the neighbor’s garbage cans and walk away chuckling, thinking about their surprise and whether they’ll figure out who the good Samaritan was?
So the next time you are having a bad day, instead of treating yourself, try treating someone else. Practice a kindness and you’ll improve your own mood. Have a kind, kind day.
If you would like to focus on how to build more positive prosocial activity in your life, call Specialized Therapy Associates at 201-488-6678.