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Helping People Can Decrease Stress

Want to Reduce Stress? Why Helping Others Helps You

We're excited to present this story from our friends at Allure:

Ladies, this one is about your inner pretty: A recent UCLA brain-imaging study suggests that helping others is beneficial to the helper and can even reduce stress. In research involving 20 happy couples, when women supported their boyfriends as the men were zapped with an electrical current, the reward centers in the women's brains lit up and they reportedly felt more connected to their partners. Other women who were not allowed to reach out and touch their suffering significant others, squeezed stress balls, and their brains exhibited more stress activity than women supporting their partners.

What really surprised the researchers was that the women's brains showed fewer signs of stress when they were supporting their boyfriends through pain than they did when the women were touching their partners when the men were not being shocked. So in theory, helping someone through a tough time has more positive effects than just being together in a nonstressful situation. Fascinating stuff. But I really wish this study involved more. Namely, that the ladies were zapped too and their supportive boyfriends' reward centers monitored. As of now, the results only support the idea that women benefit from helping others. I'd also be curious to know whether the fried boyfriends felt closer to their hands-on partners.

Do you find that you feel closer to others when you help them? Do you feel less stressed when you're able to offer care and affection someone in need?


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Image Source: Thinkstock
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