It's so simple to be wise.  Just think of something stupid to say, and then don't say it.     Sam Levenson (1911-1980)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Do Good to Feel Good, Part I

Here it is (again), this time via the NYT: Scientific evidence that giving works.

And let's face it, we know this. We all know it, from the inside. Giving promotes health. Thinking about others promotes health. (Thanks again, Prof K, for your insightful reminder).

The article's examples there are numerous. Here's a personal favorite:
An array of studies have documented this effect. In one, a 2002 Boston College study, researchers found that patients with chronic pain fared better when they counseled other pain patients, experiencing less depression, intense pain and disability.
Anyone who has been chronically ill, or who has spent time among the chronically ill, will readily note that a sick person does not want to be the focus of people's help and attention all the time; she wants to listen to others and be there for them. In other words, she wants to feel normal, and being able to help others restores our sense of normalcy.

Unless you're a celebrity, being the constant focus of others is not a normal state of existence. I'm not convinced it does much good for celebrities either, with their constant complaints of telephoto lenses sneaking ou from behind the trash cans, and all those pop songs lamenting the paparazzi. But heck, it's a living.

Turns out that being stuck in your own misery can lead to somatic harm.
By contrast, being self-centered may be damaging to health. In one study of 150 heart patients, researchers found that people in the study who had more “self-references” (those who talked about themselves at length or used more first-person pronouns) had more severe heart disease and did worse on treadmill tests.
I believe it.

I don't usually do this, honest, but I'm even going out on a limb and referencing Dennis Prager's take on happiness, flippant as it sounds, since I think he's got something too.

(I do take issue with his use of the term moral obligation. I don't usually view the use of antiperspirant as a moral obligation either.... a social obligation, maybe, but moral? An exception might be when working with people, such as those on chemo, who may be exceedingly disturbed or nauseated by strong smells. And on Egged buses during the summer months -- OK, that might just be a moral obligation).

Call it CBT, call it common sense, call it a serotonin-inspired warm fuzzy feeling -- the evidence has long been out there. Actions determine mood, and not the other way round.

Keep the balance,


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