15 Jan 1) Do Unto Others or Treat Yourself?
GIVENT is the place where givers gather. It fosters the trust between its members that is necessary for growth and prosperity. Understanding this power is key to understanding who we are as a network.
People are confused about the meaning of giving. Popular culture encourages us to give while focusing on ourselves. The focus becomes “what’s in it for me?” when we give to others. This is a self-oriented type of giving.
By contract, psychological science has collected substantial evidence that it is best when the giver focuses on others first. This is an other-oriented type of giving. This form of focusing on others increases psychological well-being.
In 2016, a group of researchers published in a peer-reviewed psychology journal showing that our mindset when we give will help or hinder our psychological well-being. The researchers focused on two kinds of giving behavior: (1) a kind act directly benefiting another person and (2) a kind act directly benefiting oneself.
The hypothesis was simple: other-oriented giving would show improvements in psychological well-being while increasing positive emotions and decreasing negative emotions, whereas self-oriented giving would not experience such benefits.
471 participants were involved in this research. Participants in the other-oriented group were asked to perform three nice things such as sharing a skill, participating in a cause, and helping someone out, which would benefit others first. Participants in the self-oriented giving group were asked to perform three nice things such as a spa treatment, a gift to oneself, a nice restaurant, which would benefit themselves first.
The participants performed those activities weekly for the next 6 weeks. The researchers measured psychological well-being with questions such as “How often do you feel happy?”, “How often do you feel that you liked most aspects of your personality?”, and “How often do you feel that you belong to a community group?” The giving acts of kindness were studied by three independent judges to make sure the acts were relevant.
The results were astounding. People felt more part of a community group when the giving was other-oriented. What’s more, those people had significantly lowered their negative emotions of worry, frustration, depression, unhappiness and significantly increased their positive emotions of enjoyment, happiness, and pleasantness. The rise in psychological well-being was still potent two weeks after the study. It seems that the other-oriented givers received “an upward spiral of greater well-being” and mental health and the self-oriented givers had missed out.
“People striving for happiness may be tempted to treat themselves. Our results, however, suggest that they may be more successful if they opt to treat someone else instead.”
Reference: Nelson, K. S., Cole, S. W., Layous, K., & Lyubomirsky (2016). Do unto others or treat yourself? The effect of prosocial and self-focused behavior on psychological flourishing. Emotion, 16, 850-861.