Sunday, May 6, 2007

"New" Discovery - Doing Good makes You Feel Happy...

...can you imagine that! No I don't mean can you imagine that doing good things like: being nice to others, doing your civic duties, having common courtesy, volunteering, being law abiding, being a good parent, and on and on, makes you feel good; what I mean is can you imagine that someone actually thinks this is a new discovery. I find it even difficult to believe that someone went out and did what I believe was wasting someone else's money, and maybe even some of his own, to do such a study - which I will guess is supposed to have been scientific and therefore have the weight of science behind it. The truth is though, someone apparently did just that as discussed in the article Study: Doing Good Makes You Feel Good at @,2933,269900,00.html.

According to said article: "There's a new incentive to doing good things for others: It makes you happier, according to a new study." Now did someone really have to go out and spend time and effort to discover that doing good deeds, acting nicely and the like makes you a happier person. I mean, wasn't that sort of thing already common knowledge; did it have to be scientifically proven, hasn't it been proven throughout the ages already? I wonder, are scientists, or academicians, that much out of touch with reality to not realize that this was simply a fact of nature. Apparently at least one person, the guy who conducted this study, Michael Steger, "...couldn’t help but wonder which behavior makes people happier — seeking pleasure or doing good?".

Let's see, were there already any hints that doing good makes one feel happy? I think there was already a large body of evidence that pointed us in that direction, certainly more evidence than the experiences of 65 students who participated in the study could have amounted to. For example:

1) People we see in the world who seemingly seek pleasure for themselves very often, or possibly more often than they do good, apparently turn out to be despicable, and/or miserable. Some extreme examples of this throughout history, in my opinion, would be: Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler, Nero, Josef Stalin, any pedophile you can name. Some examples that are closer to home and less extreme, but nonetheless, are in my opinion

examples would be: Paris Hilton, Rosie O'Donnell, some people who go compete on American Idol, people who are always telling you what to do or not do like PETA members, over zealous politicians, or a consistently grumpy next door neighbor.

2) People in the world who repeatedly do good for others apparently turn out to be loved and quite happy a least about doing good. Good examples of this throughout history are: Louis Pasteur, Florence Nightingale, Joan of Arc. Less extreme , and more modern, examples of such would be: Mr. Rogers (of PBS television fame), Sister Theresa, any person who routinely exhibits some common courtesy, a consistently nice next door neighbor, people who volunteer often to do nice things.

3) Of course, for about the last 2,000 years now or more precisely for about the last 1,977 years or so, we have had this saying going round the world: It is better to give than to receive. No I am not about to start preaching, heck I am pretty much an atheist, agnostic at most toward religious beliefs, but this was and is a good one! People who give of themselves, within reason, usually seem to be those who are the happiest, it is just plain old common knowledge.

4) While stressful, holidays like Christmas, and Chanukah, make people feel happy, and both are times of giving happiness, and are not about seeking pleasure for yourself.

5) Marriages work out much better, and each partner is happier, when each partner is giving of goodness to the other, not when each partner only wants to receive goodness.

6) In any relationship, such as friendship, work associations, school relationships, the people involved seem to be happier when they are good, and do good, as opposed to when they seek self satisfaction only.

I guess I could go on and on about this, but why bother when thousands of years of history, and common sense, have shown that doing good makes one happy or feel good about him/herself. I think the need for a study was a bit ridiculous, and I think one of the reported findings was even more so, and I'll have to repeat one of the above quotes from the article: "There's a new incentive to doing good things for others: It makes you happier, according to a new study." It is ridiculous to say that feeling happy is a new incentive for doing good, and then to conclude that people who do good are happier than those who seek pleasure. You see, if you use happiness that you will feel as an incentive for doing good, you are in effect seeking the pleasure of happiness for yourself; and therefore you are defeating the whole purpose of doing good onto others in that you are seeking self satisfaction because you did good with that goal in mind. The truth be told, when you do selfless good deeds, you do not seek to feel good, you seek to do good, to make others happier or better off, and you do not need or seek the after effect/result of feeling happier before doing a good deed. To do so would only be hypocrisy, and that I think would make you feel miserable in the long run. You do good because you are good already, because you feel good enough about yourself not to worry about what you will get out of it, but rather what good you can do for others. In general, you are a happier or better person already, before the act, who selflessly does good for others, and if doing good results in making you feel happier - well so be it it, you deserve it.

Before I close, I will admit one thing about this study. It was nice to see that academia or science now apaprently believe that doing good is basically its own reward.

All the best,
Glenn B

1 comment:

jennifer said...

Right on again...someone was paid to do this research?

How silly, but I guess in the times we live in with every move Paris makes being splashed on the cover of something, and every freakish rant that Rosie makes is applauded, I guess the study may be necessary!

I think everything you wrote is head on, and anyone who has a longstanding marriage agrees.

Great idea on the give away...can I link to it later on today or tomorrow?(as former LE we are equally equipped, but many quiet blog readers will guess for a cool prize!)