Want to be happy? Think of others as well as yourself!

Want to be happy? Think of others as well as yourself!

via Forbes by Alice G Walton

Despite the interest in self-care these days, there’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that what ancient wisdom has taught for eons is true—turning attention away from ourselves and toward others is really the key to happiness. To this end, a new study from Iowa State University finds that when people mentally wish others well for just a brief period, they’re considerably happier and less stressed than people engaging in even other seemingly beneficial activities.

The work was published this month in the Journal of Happiness Studies.

To understand how wishing others well might affect mood and other variables, the research team first gave a group of undergraduate participants surveys to capture a number of measures regarding their states—happiness, stress level, satisfaction with life, empathy, level of caring, and feelings of connectedness. They also measured a number of personality traits, including their overall level of mindfulness, narcissism, intellectualness, and so on.

Then the researchers split the participants into four groups, who were all asked to take a 12-minute walk around campus. Those in the first group—the lovingkindness group—were asked to look at each person they saw and say internally, “I wish for this person to be happy.” The second, interconnectedness group, was asked to think about how they might be connected to the people they passed—for instance, that they might share hopes, dreams, stresses, eat at the same restaurant, or be in the same class. The third was asked to make downward social comparisons, that is, to think about how they might be better off in some way or luckier than each person they saw. A fourth group served as controls, and they were asked to focus on external aspects of the people they passed, including the colors and textures of clothes, and their makeup or accessories.

After the intervention, the team again queried the participants about moods and feelings. The lovingkindness group showed some striking changes, increasing on a number of measures, including feeling happier, more connected, empathic, and less anxious. The interconnectedness group only felt more social connection, not happier or less anxious. There was no change in the downward social comparisons group or the control group.

“Walking around and offering kindness to others in the world reduces anxiety and increases happiness and feelings of social connection,” said study author Douglas Gentile in a statement. “It’s a simple strategy that doesn’t take a lot of time that you can incorporate into your daily activities.”

…keep reading the full & original article HERE