Another interesting piece of research I heard recently was altruistic (other focused) behaviour and depression. It appears helping others changes our brains, significantly increasing dopamine, oxytocin and other hormones that help depression.
It appears though, that there must be a balance between altruist behaviour and self-serving behaviour, otherwise the benefits do not seem to be as clear. The takeaway is that the old ‘Do not others as you would do unto you’ – i.e. care for others like you care for yourself – is another truism.
I found this particularly interesting after chatting with a long time client of mine recently. She is doing her Masters (and no doubt shortly her PhD) at Melbourne Uni in Positive Psychology. She is currently testing a theory that acts of kindness increase the immune system by doing a cluster of 5 acts of kindness once a week (it appears that a cluster every so often is better than one a day).
So far so good – she has not been afflicted by any of the dreadful lurgies that are going around but as we chatted a philosophical question raised its head – if you do a kindness for others for your own benefit i.e. an act of kindness to increase your own immune system then is it really an act of kindness? This latest research into the balance that must be maintained with altruistic and self-serving behaviour to support our mental health seems to help resolve that.
Interesting, that same research also showed that some people will unavoidably fall into depression unless the work they do is heartfelt (my word) and makes a difference. I thought of several of my clients who struggle working in jobs that are not filling their soul. Often their only alternative is to keep doing the job to make the money to keep on keeping on. They feel trapped and depressed which is then compounded with guilt because they can’t fulfil their partners, their parents, societies …(fill in the blanks) expectations. The truth appears to be that some of us are simply hardwired to be unable to do this.
So if you are struggling between having to ‘be successful in a career / make money’ or do work that inspires you, you may be one of these people. If so, it seems to me (as one of these people!) that again, knowing this is a hard wired brain process to keep our society functioning and healthy may help you see your choice in a different light. Maybe you won’t make as much / be as apparently ‘successful’ or acceptable – but you will be taking action to take responsibility for living your life the way you need to. I’m not sure we can do much more than that!
copyright 2017 Gay Landeta, Create The Life You Want To Live. All rights reserved.