Prosocial Behavior to the Betterment of Self and Others

Prosocial behavior is considered a chosen action(s) specifically intended to positively impact the well-being of another or a group of others. Behaviors that fall into this category include, but are not limited to, helping, sharing, comforting, protecting, donating, and expressing kindness. The psychological research demonstrates that the actor of prosocial behavior may experience improvements in mood, reductions in stress, and a reprieve from negative feelings of sadness, guilt, and despair. Overall, helping is associated with positive mental health outcomes and is one way to bolster resilience. Physiologically, the person who engages in prosocial behavior may enjoy reductions in inflammation and morbidity, improvements in overall health, and increased longevity associated with reductions in mortality risk.

In children, the development of prosocial behavior is correlated with social and emotional competence, impacting self-regulation, self-confidence, and the ability to be empathetic. Many progressive schools are incorporating mindfulness practices into their curriculum, fostering awareness while providing a useful tool towards the development of empathetic behavior.  Encouraging acts of kindness can increase greater unity among students and openly modeling this behavior promotes the replication of these acts throughout the student body. The data suggest that prosocial behavior in the classroom is positively associated with learning outcomes, standardized test scores, and grades.

For both adults and children experiencing gratitude is positively correlated with increases in prosocial behavior. Perhaps the ability to “count it all blessing” encourages a glass half full approach to managing life’s ups and downs, and in turn leaves space for “other focused” actions and behaviors—more research is necessary. What we do know is helping others clearly also helps us to survive and thrive as we move through this journey called life.