Helping Others Regulate Emotion Predicts Increased Regulation of One's Own Emotions and Decreased Symptoms of Depression

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2017 May;43(5):729-739. doi: 10.1177/0146167217695558. Epub 2017 Mar 20.

Abstract

Although much research considers how individuals manage their own emotions, less is known about the emotional benefits of regulating the emotions of others. We examined this topic in a 3-week study of an online platform providing training and practice in the social regulation of emotion. We found that participants who engaged more by helping others (vs. sharing and receiving support for their own problems) showed greater decreases in depression, mediated by increased use of reappraisal in daily life. Moreover, social regulation messages with more other-focused language (i.e., second-person pronouns) were (a) more likely to elicit expressions of gratitude from recipients and (b) predictive of increased use of reappraisal over time for message composers, suggesting perspective-taking enhances the benefits of practicing social regulation. These findings unpack potential mechanisms of socially oriented training in emotion regulation and suggest that by helping others regulate, we may enhance our own regulatory skills and emotional well-being.

Keywords: emotion regulation; perspective taking; social interaction; social support.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Depression*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Helping Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Self-Control
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Young Adult