Practicing random acts of kindness is a big help for people with depression and anxiety
Something as simple as buying someone a cup of coffee can have a big positive effect.
Depression and anxiety rates are on the rise, especially among the youth. One way people can overcome this debilitating disorder is through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps to recognize and reshape negative thoughts to bring joy back into depressed people’s lives.
However, CBT might not always address patients’ need for social connections, which are essential for mental health and can also alleviate anxiety and depression.
To determine the best way that people with depression and anxiety can benefit from social connections, a group of researchers at The Ohio State University randomly assigned participants 1 of 3 tasks.
The first group was asked to perform three random acts of kindness for a stranger, such as buying them a coffee or offering to shovel snow off their driveway. The second group of participants was asked to plan a social activity on two days of the week. These were defined as “big or small activities you intentionally plan with other people for the purpose of enjoyment.”
The third was asked to fill out a workbook twice a week to identify distressing thoughts to make them less of a problem.
The results showed that after five weeks, all three groups were less depressed and anxious. But the group that had the greatest reduction in depression and anxiety were those who practiced random acts of kindness, and the benefits lasted up to five weeks.
“We did think that, if there was going to be an advantage of one group over another, it might be the thoughts record group, since that’s such a tried-and-true way of addressing depressive [and anxiety] symptoms,” Jennifer Cheavens of The Ohio State University told Greater Good. “But the kindness group did as well or better, and that group also had increases in social connection that didn’t happen in the other two groups.”