Helping others is one of the best ways to help ourselves. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “the surest way to be happy is to seek the other’s happiness.“
New research published by a team of psychologists suggests the following:
Those King words are as true today as they were half a century ago: our own happiness is influenced by the kindness and generosity we show to others. At least that’s what a study from the University of Missouri-Columbia suggests.
The study authors say “The results of these studies expand on previous research findings by showing that people accomplish greater personal happiness from attempting to make other people happy, an approach that may seem counterintuitive to many people at first”.
Other studies show that spending money on others increases one’s happiness more than spending money on oneself. But it’s not just financial generosity that has the power to increase our happiness: donating our time to someone in need, or simply adopting a mindset that puts the happiness of others above our own has a positive impact on our well-being.
Researchers explain that this reaction has to do with our basic psychological need to “relate” or feel close to others, because trying to make another person happy inspires feelings of closeness that make people end up feeling happier.
What is shocking about all these studies is that they also show that the mechanism does not work when attempts at happiness or mood improvement are self-directed. They must arise, without further ado, spontaneously.
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