Researchers at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., suggest practicing random acts of kindness to boost your mood and overall well-being. In a six-week study involving nearly 500 participants, Nelson et al sought to compare how practicing acts of kindness for others or the world compares to doing acts of kindness for yourself. Volunteers were divided into four groups: the first group was asked to complete acts of kindness to improve the world, such as picking up litter; the second group performed acts of kindness for other people, such as buying a friend a cup of coffee or helping a family member cook dinner; the third group performed acts of kindness to themselves, like exercising more or taking a day off from work; and lastly, the fourth group did nothing out of their ordinary activities. The findings revealed participants who performed acts of kindness, whether for the world or for others, were more likely to report feeling happy or to experience improvement in their mood than those in the control group and those who were kind to themselves. In fact, those who treated themselves did not see any improvement in well-being or positive emotions.
Source: Nelson KS, Layous K, Cole SW et al. Do unto others or treat yourself? The effects of prosocial and self-focused behavior on psychological flourishing. Emotion. 2016.