Doing the Right Thing Makes Us Happier

Positive actions create resilience

Communities that stick together and do good for others cope better with crises and are happier for it, demonstrating resilience. This, according to a new study by John Helliwell, from the University of British Columbia and published in Springer’s Journal of Happiness Studies, is due to the fact that humans are ‘pro-social’ beings.

We Are Pro-Social People 

‘Pro-social’ means we get happiness from doing things both with and for others. “Communities and nations with better social capital, in other words, quality social networks and social norms as well as high levels of trust, respond to crises and economic transitions more happily and effectively,” says the paper.

Researchers came to this conclusion by studying social capital and happiness during the recent economic crisis in 255 U.S. metropolitan areas. They found that social capital improves happiness both directly and indirectly by mitigating the impact of rising unemployment—in essence, by softening the blow of a down economy.

Social Trust

The principle holds true internationally as well, as evidence from countries in economic transition demonstrates the power of social trust to increase happiness. Social trust, the belief that most people can be trusted, is an indicator of the quality of a country’s social capital and is an important factor in social capital and networks. 


Helliwell, J.F., Huang, H., Wang, S. (2013). Social Capital and Well-Being in Times of Crisis. Journal of Happiness Studies; DOI 10.1007/s10902-013-9441-z

Image:  Some rights reserved by michaelcardus

Category: Psych


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