Simple Acts of Generosity Can Significantly Improve Emotional Well-Being, Study Finds
A recent study published by the BIG JOY Project, a collaboration between the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley and other research institutions, has found that performing everyday acts of generosity can significantly improve emotional well-being.
The study, based on the participation of over 70,000 people from more than 200 countries, involved an online survey where participants were asked to answer questions about their emotions, stress, and social tendencies. They were then asked to try small, happiness-boosting activities for seven consecutive days, which researchers called “microacts” of joy.
The results showed that individuals who performed these “micro-acts” of joy daily experienced a 25% increase in their emotional well-being over the course of a week. Speaking to NPR, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, project leader and scientific director of the Greater Good Science Center, expressed excitement at the “statistically significant, measurable changes” in well-being, coping, stress, and satisfaction with relationships.
These microacts include activities such as making a gratitude list, acts of kindness, celebrating others’ success, and positively reframing adverse situations. Participants reported their daily actions and feelings and evaluated how their emotions and sense of well-being had changed after a week.
According to Elissa Epel, a BIG JOY collaborator and professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, the sense of control over emotions could be the reason for the improvement in well-being, with the acceptance of having an impact on happiness increasing by 27%.
In the context of global challenges, researchers see micro-acts as a tool to promote collective well-being, even in the face of suffering. However, it is important to note that these microacts are not substitutes for therapy or medication for serious mental health issues. Instead, they may serve as a motivation for participation in altruistic actions and the common good.
Professionals from different fields have highlighted the importance of continuing scientific research into the benefits of positive psychology and the support these microacts offer in adverse situations.
To start practicing microacts of joy, Simon-Thomas recommends planning them daily and integrating them into everyday routines. The intention behind these acts plays a fundamental role in their effectiveness.
The expert adds that instead of thinking of joy as something that happens to you, it may make sense to think of it as a skill that can be improved through practice. “If you want to stay physically fit, you have to keep exercising,” says Simon-Thomas, “and the same probably applies to well-being.”
In summary, the positive effects of these microacts can diminish if not maintained. As Simon-Thomas puts it, “I feel more optimistic. I feel more relaxed. I just believe that humans can change for the better.”