Be nice — for your own sake.
A new study has found that doing a good deed not only helps the recipient, but brings the giver physical pleasure and pain relief.
“Acting altruistically relieved not only acutely induced physical pain among healthy adults but also chronic pain among cancer patients,” concluded the China-based study authors in the study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.
The researchers looked at the impact of being a good Samaritan in 280 people through two pilot studies and three experiments.
MRI scans of patients’ brains found that an act of perceived kindness had an instant, deactivating impact on the portion of the brain that registers painful stimulation — the medial prefrontal cortex.
In one experiment, volunteers who gave blood following an earthquake were found to experience less pain than those who did it as part of a routine test, despite a larger needle being used for the volunteers, CNN reports.
In a second experiment, cancer patients’ chronic pain was found to be much more significantly reduced when they cooked and cleaned for others at their treatment center, compared when they only cooked and cleaned for themselves.
A third experiment found that participants felt less pain when their hands were given an electric shock — if they first gave money to help orphans.
The results of their experiments were so clear, the authors felt that altruism may be used as a supplement to pain medication and behavioral therapies.
“Our findings suggest that incurring personal costs to help others may buffer the performers from unpleasant conditions,” the study authors conclude.