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The Psychological and Emotional Benefits of Doing Good Deeds: What the Research Says

The Psychological and Emotional Benefits of Doing Good Deeds: What the Research Says

There's an old saying that goes, "doing good does you good," and as it turns out, this isn't just a heartwarming sentiment, it's grounded in science. The act of doing good deeds, often referred to as 'prosocial behavior,' has numerous psychological and emotional benefits that can enhance our overall wellbeing. The transformative power of altruism is becoming more recognized in both psychological literature and everyday life.

Elevating Happiness and Well-being

One of the most immediate benefits of performing good deeds is the boost it provides to our sense of happiness and well-being. A 2019 study conducted by the University of Sussex explored how acts of kindness affect emotional wellbeing. The results were conclusive: participants who carried out acts of kindness experienced significantly elevated levels of happiness. This is often referred to as the 'helper's high,' a term coined by Allan Luks in 1988.

The helper's high is believed to be related to the release of endorphins, our body's natural 'feel-good' chemicals, in the brain. This flood of endorphins leads to a sense of warmth and euphoria, similar to the feeling you get after a rigorous workout. The 'high' is not just a fleeting feeling; it can bring about sustained happiness and contentment.

Reducing Stress and Improving Mental Health

Additionally, engaging in good deeds has been shown to reduce stress and improve mental health. In a 2017 study by Yale University, participants who performed regular acts of kindness reported lower levels of stress and improved mental health compared to a control group. They found that helping others helped participants cope with their own stress better, improving their emotional resilience.

This stress-reducing effect of altruism might be related to the diversion of focus from self to others. By extending our circle of concern beyond our personal worries and problems, we reduce the intensity of stress and anxiety we might be experiencing.

Boosting Self-Esteem and Life Satisfaction

Furthermore, performing good deeds can lead to increased self-esteem and overall life satisfaction. Acts of kindness give us a sense of purpose and make us feel valued and competent, leading to increased self-esteem. A 2010 study in the Journal of Social Psychology showed that participants who performed daily acts of kindness for 10 days reported higher life satisfaction.

Good deeds don't just boost the giver's mood; they create a positive feedback loop that encourages continued prosocial behavior. Known as the 'kindness ripple effect,' one good deed can inspire another, spreading positivity and well-being in a wider circle.

Promoting Longevity

The benefits of doing good deeds even extend to physical health and longevity. According to a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, individuals who spent time helping others were likely to live longer. The researchers concluded that this was because altruistic activities help reduce the impact of stress, which is known to contribute to a range of physical health problems.

In conclusion, the psychological and emotional benefits of doing good deeds are substantial, providing enhanced happiness, reduced stress, improved self-esteem, and even increased longevity. It's clear that altruism is not just about making the world a better place for others, but also about improving our own wellbeing.

However, it's important to note that the focus should be on the act of kindness itself rather than the benefits we can gain. Authentic altruism stems from a genuine desire to help others, which makes the resultant 'helper's high' all the more rewarding. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Now, backed by scientific evidence, these words resonate with us on a much deeper level, reminding us that our well-being is intricately linked with the well-being of others. And that's a good deed in and of itself.

Small Good Things kindness self-help happiness journal

Small Good Things: A Journal to Help You Feel Good By Doing Good (For Yourself and Others)


A Win-Win

When doing the right thing is actually the thing that benefits everyone involved, more of the right thing gets done.

I published the guided journal, Small Good Things: A Journal to Help You Feel Good By Doing Good (For Yourself and Others) to help myself and anyone who wants to join me get into the habit of doing small good things for others and small acts of self-care regularly. It encourages you each day and occasionally invites you to look back and reflect on the impact you're having.

I'm on a mission to help put 12 million new good things into the world this year. That means 12,000 doing Small Good Things this year. That's not that many! For some, that's only one post or share on their social media accounts. 

If you'd like to join me, visit to get your copy and let's start improving lives - our own and the people around us.