The research was conducted by the Department of Psychology at Columbia University. The findings reveal that those who engage in helping others showed greater decreases in their own depression. The inference is that by helping others people can enhance their own emotional well-being.
Studies of how people manage their own emotions are commonplace. What has been researched in less detail is the emotional benefits that arise from regulating the emotions of others. To examine this the research team from Columbia University used a new in-line platform.
The new research was undertaken as a three week long study. Here the researchers considered an online platform that provided training and practice in the social regulation of emotion. Through this it was found that individuals who engaged more by helping others (compared with receiving support for their own problems) showed larger decreases in rates of depression. Such people were also better able to reappraise their lives.
According to one of the researchers, Dr. Robert R. Morris, writing on his blog
: “Under the right circumstances, it seems that helping others can be an incredibly powerful and profound way to help yourself. Depression symptoms can go down, while well-being scores can improve.”
The on-line platform used is called Koko
and it was developed by Dr. Morris. The platform provides a communal way to build emotional resilience. According to Dr. Morris: “Think of it as a crowdsourced form of cognitive therapy.”
The study also found that social regulation messages, given by one individual in terms of support to another, which had more other-focused language (that is using second-person pronouns) were more likely to elicit expressions of gratitude from recipients. In addition, the use of such language also indicated that ‘perspective-taking’ enhances the benefits of helping others with their problems.
The findings overall suggest that socially oriented training in helping others with their emotions is key to helping those who themselves suffer with depression and helps to address emotional well-being with the individuals who help others.
The research has been published in
the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
. The associated paper is titled “Helping Others Regulate Emotion Predicts Increased Regulation of One’s Own Emotions and Decreased Symptoms of Depression.”