A Cure for Emotional Pain

Though it has been known for years that serving others can emotionally benefit the giver as well as the recipient, a new study supports that concept from a financial perspective, as well.

Recently, there was a downer in my life. For days I felt so bad that when I got up all of the usual energy resources were drained right from the get-go. My husband was very nice and this helped. He, too, was going through the same morose as our difficulty had to do with a common outside source.

After a time of so much pain, both of us tried to bounce back. My husband said, “I have to distance myself from this thing or it will eat me up.”

I thought to myself, “If I could reach out and help others, this would make me feel better.” I knew this from past experience.

My opportunity came. In one day, I did acts of kindness for three different individuals that gleaned results. The recipients were appreciative. I felt good. My previously pervasive sad feeling was still present, but lessened. By helping others, I helped myself.

This is not a new concept. Though it has been known for years that serving others can emotionally benefit the giver as well as the recipient, the fresh news is that it is now scientifically studied, at least from a financial perspective.

In a recently published article, Lara B. Atkins and eight other colleagues from around the globe demonstrated that giving money to others (pro-social giving) provides benefits for the giver as well as the recipient. This “good feeling” appears to be a universal response among individuals from both poor and wealthy countries.

Their study, entitled “Pro-social Spending and Well-Being: Cross-Cultural Evidence for a Psychological Universal,” was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology online on Feb. 18, 2013.

In a nutshell, the researchers studied the relationship between personal well-being and spending on others in 120 countries. To do this, they surveyed 234,917 individuals. Throughout the world, there was a positive correlation between well-being and spending on others. This was not affected by income, social support or supposed freedom or national corruption.

The authors conclude:

From an evolutionary perspective, the emotional rewards that people experience when they help others may serve as a proximate mechanism that evolved to facilitate pro-social behavior, which may have carried short-term costs but long-term benefits for survival over human evolutionary history. The robustness of this mechanism is supported by our finding that people experience emotional benefits from sharing their financial resources with others not only in countries where such resources are plentiful, but also in impoverished countries where scarcity might seem to limit the possibilities to reap the gains from giving to others.”

Read more:

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