Saturday, June 10, 2017

Inspirational Quote – June 10, 2017

“Some people FEEL the rain…others just get wet.”

Why do people whine and complain when it rains? Their ignorance really annoys me! Rain is life-sustaining, not only for us as human beings, but to the planet as a whole. Without it, everything would perish, us included. Therefore, when it does rain I, for one, am very thankful and do my best to enjoy being out in it, just to feel it on my skin, and watch it do its job in nourishing the life that surrounds us. Try to remember this the next time it rains and add your gratitude to mine.

Day Jobs for Panhandlers

With just under 400,000 residents, Tulsa, Oklahoma, has a significant homeless population. In 2016, between 6,000 and 7,000 residents lived on the streets. That number, while small in comparison to homeless populations in cities such as New York and Los Angeles, is noticeable in medium-sized Tulsa. So what did Tulsa decide to do to address this problem? Do what Albuquerque, New Mexico did -- move from a punitive model of fining panhandlers to offering cleanup jobs and social services to people on the streets.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Inspirational Quote – June 9, 2017

“Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.”

I have lost count of the number of times this has been true for me and I’m sure, if you take the time to think back, that you can relate to this too. The job that was so meant for us that we didn’t get, the love interest that broke our heart, the planned holiday that didn’t materialize…….on, and on, and on. Take another look at when this happened to you and think how different things would have been if they had happened as you’d wanted and planned. I’ll wager that things actually did turn out well for you and that you may even have given a silent prayer of thanks as you were re-directed to something or someone much, much better. So the next time you begin to rail against Fate when you didn’t get what you wanted, think about this and wait and see…..

My Year Reading a Book from Every Country in the World

Several years ago, Ann Morgan, a writer from London, looked at her bookshelf and realized it held almost no books from other countries -- an oversight she called a "massive cultural blindspot." In a nod to the Olympics, she decided to read a book from every country (196 total) and blog about it. But she quickly learned that finding books in English would be a challenge. Only about 4.5 percent of literary works published in the U.K. were translations. So she turned to the Internet for help. There, she learned about kindness when strangers went above and beyond to help her select and translate books. She learned that stories have the power to connect us despite our differences. And she learned about the richness and diversity of our world. In this 12-minute TED talk, a bubbly and enthusiastic Morgan recounts her journey in international literature. . . and shares lessons in human nature.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Why Are So Many Adults Today Haunted by Trauma?

By Jenara Nerenberg

Our political and social systems don't support fundamental human needs, says Gabor Mate—which affects our ability to deal with traumatic events.

Sixty percent of adults report difficult childhood experiences, including drawn-out divorces, violence, and abuse. The effects of trauma are long-lasting, ranging from anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder to physical illness.
But according to Dr. Gabor Mate, focusing solely on the role of family in childhood trauma misses the bigger picture. What if trauma also results from a shortcoming on the part of society to support families in thriving? If society helped informed teachers and parents meet children’s basic human needs for attachment and connection, would we produce fewer traumatized adults? 
Mate focuses much of his therapeutic work on the healing of trauma, exploring the role of adverse childhood experiences in leading to addiction and other suffering later in life. He is the bestselling author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, and his work has garnered international attention and a dedicated following.
We caught up with Mate, who lives in Vancouver, for a conversation at CIIS in San Francisco. Research has discovered what we all need in order to connect and flourish, he argues, but society isn’t putting this knowledge into practice—which puts us all at risk.
Jenara Nerenberg: Can you explain your thinking around the “myth of normal?” 
Gabor Mate: I think normalcy is a myth. The idea that some people have pathology and the rest of us are normal is crude. There’s nothing about any mentally ill person—and it doesn’t matter what their diagnosis is—that I couldn’t recognize in myself. The reality is that, in every case, mental illness is an outcome of traumatic events. And by trauma I don’t mean dramatic events. There’s a difference.
Fundamentally, it has to do with whether human needs are being met or not. Since we live in a society that largely denies human developmental needs—doesn’t even understand them, let alone provide for them—you’re going to have a lot of people affected in adverse ways. Most of the population, in fact. And so then to separate out those who meet the particular criteria for a particular diagnosis from the rest of us is utterly unscientific and unhelpful.
More to the point, you need to look at what is it about our society that generates what we call abnormality?
JN: So, for example, how do you view something like autism?
GM: We have to realize that, whatever’s going on, it can’t be some genetic “problem” because genes don’t change in a population over 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, or even 300 years. So, whatever is going on, it is not genetically determined. It may be biological, but it’s not genetic, because we can’t reduce biology down to genetics.
In fact, human biology and human neurobiology are interpersonal. The brain is a social organ, and it’s affected by the environment, and particularly it’s affected by the psycho-emotional environment. So, then you have to ask: What might be happening in society that might be affecting infants and children?
JN: What’s your answer to that question? What leads to trauma in our society?
GM: The essence of trauma is disconnection from ourselves. Trauma is not terrible things that happen from the other side—those are traumatic. But the trauma is that very separation from the body and emotions. So, the real question is, “How did we get separated and how do we reconnect?”
Because that’s our true nature—our true nature is to be connected. In fact, if that wasn’t our true nature, there would be no human beings. The human species—or any species—could not evolve without being grounded in their bodies. You couldn’t have a bunch of intellectuals walking around out there in the wild, wondering in an abstract sense about the meaning of life, when there’s a saber-toothed tiger lurking behind the next bush.
It’s not an automatic outcome of living in the world that we should become disconnected. It’s a product of a certain way of life and a certain way of parenting and certain childhood experiences, where it becomes too painful to stay connected so disconnection becomes a defense.
JN: Is there any research that is grabbing your attention right now?
GM: Well, there is this field of neuropolitics, where they look at how people’s political views are affected by their brain functioning, but they haven’t put that together with the child development research yet. They could do a lot of work on why people are resistant to reality.
Take the simple case of climate change, which is beyond controversy in the mind of anybody who is halfway rational. The human role in rapid climate change is frightening—the widening gap between ice floes in Antarctica, the melting of the polar ice caps, the rising of the seas. What world do you have to live in not to be concerned about those things or not to recognize that they exist?
Or take drug policy and the so-called war on drugs. You don’t need one more bit of research to show how harmful, pig-headedly wrong, and devastatingly costly that is in human terms. So, do we need research on why the research is not being implemented? No, we know the reason—powerful forces in our society benefit from it. So it’s not a failure at all. From their point of view, it’s a great success.
Same with climate change. Powerful interests benefit in the short-term, and they think in the short-term. They benefit from the economic dividends of industries that threaten the climate. It’s a political and social question, not a scientific question. Science exists within a social, political, and economic context. Who makes policy? Who influences policy? Who presents information to the public? Who controls those institutions?
JN: So, as a society and as individuals, what is the way back to wholeness?
GM: It’s impossible under capitalism, because the essence of capitalism is to separate the mind from the body. And, basically, people are all considered material goods. People matter only insofar as they produce, consume, or own matter. If you don’t produce, consume, or own matter, then you don’t matter in this society. We have to recognize the severely prohibitive limitations along with the great achievements of this particular way of life. It’s not a matter of providing some utopian prescription.
On a personal level, it’s a matter of deep self-work. One thing we’ve done now is we’ve had a lot of brilliant, necessary research about what trauma is and how it shows up in the form of physical and mental illness and alienation and disconnection from other people and from yourself. And a lot of work has been done on the reversal of trauma and the healing of it—and also on the prevention of it. But, again, we are not applying that knowledge.
Medical students and psychiatrists, for example, never learn that stuff. Most physicians don’t even hear the word “trauma” in their education and they have no understanding of it. Every time they see somebody with an autoimmune disease or mental illness, they’re looking at somebody who’s traumatized, but they don’t realize that. So therefore we deal with only with the physical manifestations, but not the actual causes.
So, to move forward, we have to have a society that is formed by the research that is already extant. So that anyone who deals with children needs to know the simple facts about the importance of relationality and brain development, and teachers need to be much more involved in relational activity with their students than in getting facts across. Because the curious, motivated brain will want to know the facts spontaneously and then they’re easier to teach. But when kids are troubled and alienated because their relational needs have not been met, and you try to hammer facts in their heads, it’s impossible.
So, the educational system needs to change and the medical system needs to change. How young families are supported needs to change. The barbarism of American policy around maternity leave has to change.
I was going to say it’s not “brain science,” but actually it is brain science! It’s very straightforward. Even under this system, there are a lot of things that could be done and the only question is, “Why aren’t they being done?”
Why aren’t they being done?

Inspirational Quote – June 8, 2017

“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”

I have found this personally to be so true! It was only when I took early retirement from my job that I felt totally free to begin my journey in exploring my long-held interest in Tarot and enhancing my psychic gifts. I have never looked back since. I have found my niche in life and feel this is something I was “meant” to do, the path I was “meant” to follow, and I am grateful that although, this came about later in life than I would have liked, at least it came. There is no excuse for anyone, no matter how old they are, not to at least attempt to make their dreams come true or realize another goal, no excuse whatsoever so don’t bother even going there………I’m not listening!

Why Defending Human Rights Is Women's Work

Whether it is Black Lives Matter activists working to encourage and support school-age black girls so that they can thrive, formerly incarcerated black trans women fighting police brutality, Muslim women debunking dangerous stereotypes besetting their communities, or undocumented Latina women promoting the rights of domestic workers, women human rights defenders in America are building solidarity across movements to resist xenophobia, transphobia, and repression of free speech and the right to dissent. Here are four groups led by women and trans women human rights defenders whose work is rooted at the intersection of race, gender, immigration, and religion.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Does Good Government Make People More Generous?

By Summer Allen 

A new study suggests that having confidence in our governing institutions may lead us to be more generous to our fellow citizens.

Holding a door open for a parent struggling with a stroller, giving money to a person in need, picking up something that a stranger dropped—these are all activities that you may do practically automatically. But why? Why do people do things that benefit strangers even when they may incur a personal cost?
Being kind feels good, research has discovered. But a new study, published in the journal Cognition, suggests that our generosity might also be shaped by the institutions in our society—and that stronger institutions create more generous citizens.
To test the relationship between institutional integrity and generosity, Yale University researchers Michael N. Stagnaro, Antonio A. Arechar, and David G. Rand asked 707 Americans to report their confidence in two particular institutions—police and the courts—and to play two online games.
The first game, the Dictator Game, tested each participant’s generosity by asking her to act as a “Dictator” and divide 30 cents between herself and an anonymous recipient.
The other game, the Third-Party Punishment Game, tested how much participants would punish selfish behavior by allowing them to act as a “Sanctioner,” who could reduce another Dictator’s take-home pay after observing their interactions with a recipient.
While the researchers found no relationship between institutional confidence and punishing selfishness, they did find that people who were more confident in institutions gave away more money on average in the Dictator Game.
Interestingly, the authors found that this was not because people who reported living under higher-quality institutions gave lots of money. But they were more likely to give something instead of nothing than people who weren’t as confident in institutions.
“This pattern suggests that people hold some notion of what the ‘right’ way to act is (e.g., giving half in the Dictator Game), and the institution shapes people’s willingness to act on this knowledge,” write the researchers.
When the researchers repeated the Dictator Game experiment with 1,705 additional American participants, they once again found a positive relationship between trusting institutions and giving more.
These results suggest that stronger institutions may lead to greater generosity, but they do not prove a causal link. Perhaps more generous people are more likely to view their institutions as being strong? Perhaps having a citizenry of more altruistic people makes for trustworthy institutions? Or perhaps there is another unidentified factor that leads to both quality institutions and generous people? 
To tease apart these possibilities, the researchers recruited 516 additional American participants for a second experiment that tested whether a proxy for institutional quality—whether rules either did or did not punish selfishness in an online game—would lead players to be generous to strangers. 
Groups of three participants played rounds of a Public Goods Game where they were allotted points that they could choose to keep or donate to a group pot. Points in the pot were to be multiplied by either 1.2 or 1.5 and then divided evenly among the group members. This meant that the group benefited if everyone donated all their points to the pot, but individuals could make the most by being selfish (assuming the others were generous). 
In some versions of the game, participants were told that there was a certain probability that their contribution would be inspected each round and, if inspected, they would be fined 1.5 points for every point they chose to keep for themselves. The probability of inspection was 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 percent.
Adding a chance of being inspected—whatever that chance was—dramatically increased generosity. In the absence of any chance of inspection, people gave an average of around 45 percent of their points to the group. But a potential inspection shot that number up to around 80 percent. This was despite the fact that participants could have made more money by being selfish and paying the fine in any of the scenarios.
Having some type of institutional punishment for selfishness—even if it’s relatively mild—appears to radically increase cooperative behavior. But would that generosity spread to outside the game?
In short, yes. Participants who had played a version of the Public Goods Game where players were sometimes punished for being selfish were more willing to give money to a stranger in a later Dictator Game, compared to those who played without inspections. 
In other words, the generosity invoked by having an inspector in the Public Goods Game carried over to a completely different game and seemed to encourage people to act more generously, even when there was no enforcement mechanism or reward for doing so.
These results suggest that living in a society with institutions we can trust to help enforce societal norms—be they courts, police, schools, religious institutions, or political parties—may have positive effects on citizens that spill over into everyday acts of kindness.
“Our theory argues that high-quality institutions hold people accountable and therefore incentivize cooperation, leading people to cooperate in daily life, which in turn leads people to internalize cooperation (and thus cooperate even in settings beyond the reach of the institution),” write the authors.
This study may help explain why we do things that benefit people we may never see again, as well as why some cultures are more cooperative than others.
“The institutions that govern our lives help to shape our willingness to choose ‘right’ over ‘wrong,’” write the authors. That’s something to think about the next time you get pulled over for speeding or audited by the IRS. These inconveniences might be a small price to pay to live in a cooperative and moral society.

Inspirational Quote – June 7, 2017

“Your life is your message to the World….make it inspiring.”

Most of us are usually so busy just dealing with our day-to-day lives that we never give a thought to how others truly see us, or the impact our lives may have on theirs. Stopping to think about how we do want other people to perceive us may give us pause to reflect on how we present ourselves. We should be giving our all every day to be the best and do the best we can as an example to all those who look to us for guidance and support. How great would that feel, to know that others may gain inspiration and purpose just by our example?

She Gave Street Children Her Cell Phone Number and That Changed

Jeroo Billimoria isn't one to see a person in need and hope that someone else will take action. She is a social entrepreneur who responds by getting involved in big and small ways. She became a social activist many years ago at the age of 11 when she encouraged her neighbors to open bank accounts and become financially literate. She wanted to enable their freedom from poverty. In recent years, Jeroo began helping the homeless children of Mumbai by giving them her phone number to call in emergencies. Children were soon calling every night, and their lives were changed. She eventually created an organization of trained street children to help their peers, and this became It is now working to help children all over the world in 143 countries. Learn more about how Jeroo continues her efforts to help and inspire others.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain

By Joel Wong, Joshua Brown

New research is starting to explore how gratitude works to improve our mental health.

With the rise of managed health care, which emphasizes cost-efficiency and brevity, mental health professionals have had to confront this burning question: How can they help clients derive the greatest possible benefit from treatment in the shortest amount of time?
Recent evidence suggests that a promising approach is to complement psychological counseling with additional activities that are not too taxing for clients but yield high results. In our own research, we have zeroed in on one such activity: the practice of gratitude. Indeed, many studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed. 
The problem is that most research studies on gratitude have been conducted with college students or other well-functioning people. Is gratitude beneficial for people who struggle with mental health concerns? And, if so, how?
We set out to address these questions in a recent research study involving nearly 300 adults, mostly college students, who were seeking mental health counseling at a university. We recruited these participants just before they began their first session of counseling, and, on average, they reported clinically low levels of mental health at the time. The majority of people seeking counseling services at this university in general struggled with issues related to depression and anxiety.
We randomly assigned our study participants into three groups. Although all three groups received counseling services, the first group was also instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person each week for three weeks, whereas the second group was asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. The third group did not do any writing activity.
What did we find? Compared with the participants who wrote about negative experiences or only received counseling, those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended. This suggests that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns. In fact, it seems, practicing gratitude on top of receiving psychological counseling carries greater benefits than counseling alone, even when that gratitude practice is brief.
And that’s not all. When we dug deeper into our results, we found indications of how gratitude might actually work on our minds and bodies. While not definitive, here are four insights from our research suggesting what might be behind gratitude’s psychological benefits.

1. Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions

First, by analyzing the words used by participants in each of the two writing groups, we were able to understand the mechanisms behind the mental health benefits of gratitude letter writing. We compared the percentage of positive emotion words, negative emotion words, and “we” words (first-person plural words) that participants used in their writing. Not surprisingly, those in the gratitude writing group used a higher percentage of positive emotion words and “we” words, and a lower proportion of negative emotion words, than those in the other writing group.
However, people who used more positive emotion words and more “we” words in their gratitude letters didn’t necessarily have better mental health later. It was only when people used fewer negative emotion words in their letters that they were significantly more likely to report better mental health. In fact, it was the lack of negative emotion words—not the abundance of positive words—that explained the mental health gap between the gratitude writing group and the other writing group.
Perhaps this suggests that gratitude letter writing produces better mental health by shifting one’s attention away from toxic emotions, such as resentment and envy. When you write about how grateful you are to others and how much other people have blessed your life, it might become considerably harder for you to ruminate on your negative experiences.

2. Gratitude helps even if you don’t share it

We told participants who were assigned to write gratitude letters that they weren’t required to send their letters to their intended recipient. In fact, only 23 percent of participants who wrote gratitude letters sent them. But those who didn’t send their letters enjoyed the benefits of experiencing gratitude nonetheless. (Because the number of people who sent their letters was so small, it was hard for us to determine whether this group’s mental health was better than those who didn’t send their letter.)
This suggests that the mental health benefits of writing gratitude letters are not entirely dependent on actually communicating that gratitude to another person.
So if you’re thinking of writing a letter of gratitude to someone, but you’re unsure whether you want that person to read the letter, we encourage you to write it anyway. You can decide later whether to send it (and we think it’s often a good idea to do so). But the mere act of writing the letter can help you appreciate the people in your life and shift your focus away from negative feelings and thoughts.

3. Gratitude’s benefits take time

It’s important to note that the mental health benefits of gratitude writing in our study did not emerge immediately, but gradually accrued over time. Although the different groups in our study did not differ in mental health levels one week after the end of the writing activities, individuals in the gratitude group reported better mental health than the others four weeks after the writing activities, and this difference in mental health became even larger 12 weeks after the writing activities.
These results are encouraging because many other studies suggest that the mental health benefits of positive activities often decrease rather than increase over time afterward. We don’t really know why this positive snowball effect occurred in our study. Perhaps the gratitude letter writers discussed what they wrote in their letters with their counselors or with others. These conversations may have reinforced the psychological benefits derived from the gratitude writing itself.
For now, the bottom line is this: If you participate in a gratitude writing activity, don’t be too surprised if you don’t feel dramatically better immediately after the writing. Be patient and remember that the benefits of gratitude might take time to kick in.

4. Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain

About three months after the psychotherapy sessions began, we took some of the people who wrote gratitude letters and compared them with those who didn’t do any writing. We wanted to know if their brains were processing information differently.
We used an fMRI scanner to measure brain activity while people from each group did a “pay it forward” task. In that task, the individuals were regularly given a small amount of money by a nice person, called the “benefactor.” This benefactor only asked that they pass the money on to someone if they felt grateful. Our participants then decided how much of the money, if any, to pass on to a worthy cause (and we did in fact donate that money to a local charity).
We wanted to distinguish donations motivated by gratitude from donations driven by other motivations, like feelings of guilt or obligation. So we asked the participants to rate how grateful they felt toward the benefactor, and how much they wanted to help each charitable cause, as well as how guilty they would feel if they didn’t help. We also gave them questionnaires to measure how grateful they are in their lives in general.
We found that across the participants, when people felt more grateful, their brain activity was distinct from brain activity related to guilt and the desire to help a cause. More specifically, we found that when people who are generally more grateful gave more money to a cause, they showed greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with learning and decision making. This suggests that people who are more grateful are also more attentive to how they express gratitude.
Most interestingly, when we compared those who wrote the gratitude letters with those who didn’t, the gratitude letter writers showed greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex when they experienced gratitude in the fMRI scanner. This is striking as this effect was found three months after the letter writing began. This indicates that simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain. While not conclusive, this finding suggests that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time. 
The GGSC’s coverage of gratitude is sponsored by the <a href=“” target=The GGSC's coverage of gratitude is sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation as part of our Expanding Gratitude project.
Though these are just the first steps in what should be a longer research journey, our research so far not only suggests that writing gratitude letters may be helpful for people seeking counseling services but also explains what’s behind gratitude’s psychological benefits. At a time when many mental health professionals are feeling crunched, we hope that this research can point them—and their clients—toward an effective and beneficial tool.
Regardless of whether you’re facing serious psychological challenges, if you have never written a gratitude letter before, we encourage you to try it. Much of our time and energy is spent pursuing things we currently don’t have. Gratitude reverses our priorities to help us appreciate the people and things we do.

Inspirational Quote – June 6, 2017

“The only thing certain is….nothing is certain.”

You can certainly say that again! There is only one certainty in life and that’s death. Apart from that, everything is by chance. We may think we have put certain things in place, at certain times, in certain locations, times, dates etc. However, as the saying goes, “Nothing is set in stone.” There will always be the risk of plans going awry no matter how much time and effort you have put in to ensure this doesn’t happen. Nothing we can do about it but just make our plans as we’ve always done and hope for the best, certain in the knowledge that nothing is certain!

Our Greatest Obstacle to Happiness and How to Transcend It

Maria Popova of Brain Pickings points out that "perhaps the greatest paradox of human life is that although happiness is the most universal of our longings, it is unobtainable by striving. The more ferociously we try to attain it, the more it eludes us." Join Artist Agnes Martin as she examines this paradox.

Monday, June 5, 2017

How Comforting Others Helps You with Your Own Struggles

By Kira M. Newman

According to two new studies, we need practice in dealing with difficult feelings—and we get it from helping other people manage their own.

When we feel bad, we often turn to others for help and support. And when others come to us in pain, we do our best to help them feel better. This natural cycle seems to be part of the human experience.
Now, two new studies suggest that trying to make people feel better not only supports them—it allows us to practice emotional skills that may help us with our own problems. While negative emotions feel isolating and personal, the best way to deal with them may be profoundly social.
Both studies also highlighted one skill that seemed to really benefit both other people and ourselves: perspective-taking, the part of empathy that involves understanding someone else’s point of view.

How helping others helps you

In the first study, 166 participants spent three weeks interacting on a social network the researchers created specifically for expressing and responding to distress. Before and after, they filled out surveys measuring various aspects of their emotional lives and well-being.
In the social network, participants could post and comment on other people’s posts. The platform trained them to leave three types of comments, representing different types of emotion regulation:

  • Validation, which affirms what the person was feeling. For example, “This sounds so frustrating! Sometimes it seems like one stress piles up on top of another.”
  • Reappraisal, which offers a different interpretation of an event. For example, “I think another thing to consider is…”
  • Pointing out thinking errors, such as black-and-white thinking or believing you can read other people’s minds.

The control group could only post their experiences and not see other people’s, more like using an online diary.
In the end, the researchers found that the more comments participants posted about other people’s problems—no matter what type of comment—the more the commenters’ happiness and mood increased and their depressive symptoms and rumination decreased over the course of the experiment. On the other hand, more active members of the control group didn’t reap the same benefits.
These positive changes were partly accounted for by commenters practicing reappraisal more often in their own daily lives. Responding itself—in other words, helping other people regulate their emotions—seemed to be training people in the very skills of emotion regulation. It didn’t seem to matter if participants helped each other with validation, reappraisal, or pointing out errors; the interaction itself was most important.
“Helping [others] regulate their emotional reactions to stressful situations may be a particularly powerful way to practice and hone our own regulation skills, which can then be applied to improve our own emotional well-being,” the researchers write.
These results “are particularly striking given that emotional support was provided through text-only interactions anonymously to strangers, with little to no possibility of a face-to-face or online personal relationship.”

How helping others helps them

A second study suggested that helping others regulate their emotions may not just be good for you, but may also be better for them, too—better than them dealing with their feelings alone.
Here, 45 couples came into the laboratory and were split up into two roles: target and regulator.
The “target” would view a series of distressing photos, like spiders or crying babies. The “regulator” saw the photo briefly. One or the other would decide on an emotion-regulation strategy to use: either reappraisal (reinterpreting the photo in a more positive way) or distraction (thinking about something else). The target performed that strategy and then reported how much distress they felt.
Ultimately, the regulators’ strategies worked better than the targets’. Targets viewing the disturbing images felt less distress when using their regulator’s strategies than their own—suggesting that, in the thick of negative feelings, our partners may actually know what’s best for us.
“The results are in line with other studies that emphasize the advantage of an outside perspective without a direct emotional involvement in reducing stress and improving emotion regulation,” the researchers write.

What skill do we need?

So, we seem to be good at helping our partners deal with negative feelings—better than we think we are, perhaps—and that may train us to handle our own pain. But what kinds of skills actually underlie this process?
Both studies point to the same answer: the skill of perspective-taking, which is the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.
In the second study, the higher the regulators scored on a survey of perspective-taking, the more effective their chosen strategies tended to be—in other words, the better they were at alleviating their partner’s distress.
In the first study, the researchers measured perspective-taking via a proxy—how often commenters used other-oriented, second-person pronouns (like “you” or “your”) in their comments. Here, the more perspective-taking in their comments, the more the comments were rated as helpful by the recipients—and the more gratitude the recipients expressed (e.g., “Thanks! This message made me feel better!”).
In addition, commenters who used more perspective-taking saw greater gains in their own reappraisal skills over the three weeks. When we practice taking someone’s point of view to help them solve their problems, we learn to become less entrenched in our own perspective—which might help us later, when that breakup or layoff seems like the end of the world.
All this suggests that getting out of our heads and into the heads of others—empathy, in other words—is good for everyone involved. And when we feel alone in our suffering, we can turn to others both for our own sake and for theirs.