Doing good things for others, even on a small scale, seems to increase one’s sense of well-being and happiness more than things done to help one self. So concludes a new study in the journal Emotion (Nelson et al., 2016).

Dr. Jeremy Dean at PsyBlog sums it up as follows:

“…as people do nice things for others, they may feel greater joy, contentment, and love, which in turn promote greater overall well-being and improve social relationships and so on.

Indeed, substantial evidence indicates that experiencing frequent positive emotions leads people to be more trusting of others, to form more inclusive social groups, and to include others in their sense of self.”

Additionally, being good to oneself does not seem to offer the same benefits, Dean notes, “perhaps because the hedonic benefits are short-lived and/or are neutralized by hedonic costs (like guilt).”

Could it really be that simple? The study’s sample size was only 500 people; and given how many results in psychology fail to be replicated, skepticism might be warranted.

If so, we could expect skepticism from Dean.

The writer, who received his PhD in in psychology from the University of London and has been a writer at PsyBlog for a dozen years, does not hesitate to criticize studies he believes to be poorly designed or are based on reasoning he believes to be fallacious. Yet he offers no such indications in this post.

If accurate, the study’s results would seem to further undermine the modern idea that happiness is found via the self, either through self-discovery or more focus on self-appetite. (In marketing, this idea is often cleverly disguised.)     

What do you think?

Do you generally agree that the pursuit of happiness would be more successful if individuals focused less on themselves and more on others? ?If the study is replicable, will it have broad implications for the human pursuit of happiness? Or is this a concept that is easily understood but very difficult to practice?

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