Help Others, You'll Feel Less Stressed: Report

It doesn’t seem to make sense, but who am I to disagree with four experiments conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Yale and Harvard? As the headline indicates, the aforementioned researchers found that volunteers' sense of “time affluence” increased when they did selfless acts. Here’s the skinny: 

Although people’s objective amount of time cannot be increased (there are only 24 hours in a day), this research demonstrates that people’s subjective sense of time affluence can be increased: compared with wasting time, spending time on oneself, and even gaining a windfall of  “free” time, spending time on others increases feelings of time affluence. The impact of giving time on feelings of time affluence is driven by a boosted sense of self-efficacy – such that giving time makes people more willing to commit to future engagements despite their busy schedules. 

If I may riff off this, let me bridge the gap further to the entrepreneur community: Being your own boss is stressful. You are constantly busy and constantly appraising potential opportunities and deciding what you should do. Sometimes you are more lucid than other times, but there’s never a shortage of work to do.

By doing something selfless, like mentoring, doing speaking engagements or taking a call with a recent college grad on how you “broke in” or “got started,” I think it helps you reconnect with where you got started and how much you’ve accomplished. I realize this when I teach, which, while I get paid to do it, sometimes I do realize how far I’ve really come when I have students who are folks I used to be in classes with. It is’t the easiest thing for self-employed people to have — that sense of accomplishment. We are driven and we are always thinking about what’s coming up next.

But it’s just as possible we’ve lost our direction or are missing something simpler to reconnect with. The study says that “helping others can actually increase feelings of time affluence and alleviate people’s perceived time famine – despite the fact that giving time necessarily consumes more of one’s objective time.”

In other words, it refocuses you.

So dig deep, and quit all the frettin’, y’all. Someone helped give you your start, right? Don’t lose sight of that. 

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as IFC’s comedy, film, and TV blogger, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City and an adjunct professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media. (He also co-runs a blog behind the DePaul class, DIY Game Dev.) He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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