Research has indicated that those experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety can potentially improve their mental health by performing acts of kindness for others.
The study found that doing kind deeds can be an effective therapy in treating depression and anxiety. This method was proven to be more effective than another two standard therapeutic techniques usually used to tackle such issues.
One of the most essential findings from the study was that out of all the interventions tested, it was acts of kindness that helped people to build a stronger sense of connection to those around them.
Good mental health is often linked to strong social connections. One of the best ways to build and maintain these relationships is by engaging in acts of kindness.
Why taking part in helpful acts could be beneficial in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety could be attributed to the fact that it helps people to focus on something else instead of concentrating on their anxiousness or sorrow.
This research debunks the commonly held belief that people dealing with depression can’t help others. This study suggests that those with depression can find comfort and relief in helping those around them.
According to the study, actively engaging in altruistic behavior and prioritizing the needs of others can help improve the mental well-being of people suffering from depression, anxiety, and stress. 122 participants with varying levels of such symptoms were included in the research.
The individuals were divided into 3 different groups following the initial session. Two of the groups worked on strategies commonly used in cognitive behavioral therapy to treat depression: cognitive reappraisal, or planning social activities.
One group was tasked with creating a diverse range of social activities to be completed two days per week. Meanwhile, the other group was taught about a core element of cognitive behavioral therapy, known as cognitive reappraisal.
Participants in this group kept records for a minimum of two days which aided them in noticing troubling thought patterns and replacing those with more positive versions to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The third group was told to do three kind deeds per day on two days of the week. A kind deed could be anything, small or big, that would help others out and make them happy, even if it costs you time or resources.
To spread some kindness, participants in the study said they did things like baking cookies for friends, offering to give a friend a lift, or leaving encouraging notes for their roommates.
Instructions were followed for five weeks and then the progress of the participants was evaluated. To ensure the effectiveness of this intervention, the researchers followed up with participants after an additional five weeks.
Research results indicated a drastic improvement in the mental well-being of all three groups after the 10 weeks. In particular, participants experienced an elevation in life satisfaction and relief from anxiety and depression symptoms.
Acts of kindness however still exhibited an advantage over both cognitive reappraisal and social activities by making individuals feel more connected to others, which is a significant aspect of mental well-being.
Those who participated in acts of kindness showed more improvement in terms of life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety symptoms compared to those who practiced cognitive reappraisal. On the other hand, simply taking part in social activities didn’t have a significant effect on feeling socially connected.
Performing acts of kindness brings people together in a way that transcends other forms of socializing. Merely being around others in a social setting is not sufficient to generate the same bond created by doing something nice for someone else.
Although this study employed cognitive behavioral therapy methods, it is not a substitute for full-fledged cognitive behavioral therapy. Those who receive the complete treatment may experience better results than those in this study.
The results of the study also demonstrate that even a brief duration of cognitive behavioral therapy can be beneficial.
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