(WellnessNova.com) - Are you nice to others? Traditional cultural medicine says that being nice and loving to others is good for your health. Scientists have found proof for these claims – like how loving-kindness meditation (where you focus unconditional love towards all) relieves stress, helps protect you from cancer, and gives you a host of other healing benefits for your mind and body. But now scientists are saying that being nice to others makes you more susceptible to depression!
Here’s what you should know about their new research, and some ways you can help mitigate your risk for depression:
Why Nice People Are Prone to Depression
Dr. Masahiko Haruno, a professor at Osaka University’s Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences, led a team of researchers who studied the brains of both selfless and selfish people. The trick to this study is their definition of being nice: feeling more empathy than the average person for others experiencing unfairness. That means if you’re the kind of person who opens doors for perfectly healthy people, or you just like giving random presents to neighbors and friends, you wouldn’t qualify.
They analyzed the brains of both groups of participants with various scanning methods, including MRI, after they posed financial situations where some people didn’t have the same resources as others or were struggling. The researchers found that the “nice” group showed more activity in areas of the brain that are known to cause stress.
To confirm psychological conditions related to stress and anxiety, the researchers asked both groups standard questions that diagnose depression. They confirmed that the “nice” group showed more signs of depression than the “selfish” group.
The researchers theorize that when you’re more sensitive to people’s financial woes, you feel more guilt, stress, and other negative emotions than people who only care about themselves. Unfortunately, although these feelings for others are commendable – they’re also gateways to depression.
If You’re a Nice Person, Here Are Some Ways to Help Lower Your Risk for Depression
Dr. Haruno also states that there are higher-level thinking areas of your brain that can counteract the increased risk of depression for people who fit his team’s definition of “nice.” He says that through talk therapy and other activities that train you to use those brain regions more frequently, you may be able to whittle down your increased risk of depression such that it becomes insignificant.
Here are some other things you can do that will help ease the pain you feel for others and perk you up:
Being active with charities and volunteer efforts. This might sound obvious, but if seeing others suffer is making you feel sad, then you’ll feel happy and wholesome when you help out unfortunate people and brighten up their situation.
Immersing yourself in nature. Studies have shown that being in nature lowers anxiety, depression, stress, and other negative emotions in patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Being in nature has also been proven to open people up to social interactions. Take frequent walks around trees, like at the park, and you’ll most probably have an uplifted mood throughout the day – you might also make some new friends!
Continue being nice without fear of falling into depression. The real takeaway is that being nice isn’t making you more likely to be depressed – it’s the economy. If the economy were better and less people were struggling, then you’d be worrying less about them! But before the economy gets better, try to mitigate your risk for depression by actively engaging in higher-level social activities, taking walks in nature, and taking some very healthy anti-depression supplements.