心理学家Carol Ryff因研究所谓的eudaimonic幸福而闻名：也就是说，我们认为生命是有意义的，有目的的。根据Ryff的说法，我们与他人的关系是eudaimonic幸福的关键组成部分。 2015年发表的一项研究证明确实如此：在这项研究中，花费更多时间帮助他人的参与者报告说他们的生活有更大的目的和意义。同样的研究还发现，在给别人写感谢之后，参与者感受到了更大的意义。这项研究表明，花时间帮助别人或表达对别人的感激之情，实际上可以让生活变得更有意义。在心理学家伊丽莎白邓恩及其同事进行的一项研究中，参与者在白天花了少量钱（5美元）。参与者可以随心所欲地花钱，但有一个重要的警告：一半的参与者不得不把钱花在自己身上，而另一半的参与者不得不把钱花在别人身上。当研究人员在一天结束时跟进参与者时，他们发现了一些可能让你感到惊讶的事情：将钱花在别人身上的人实际上比花钱自己的人更快乐。你可能在新闻中听说过“向前付款”的链条：当一个人提供一个小小的帮助（比如支付他们背后的人的餐或咖啡）时，收件人可能会向其他人提供同样的帮助。东北大学的研究人员进行的一项研究发现，当别人帮助他们时，人们确实希望付出代价 – 原因是他们感到非常感激。设置该实验以使参与者在研究中途遇到计算机问题。当其他人帮助该主题修复他们的计算机时，该主题随后花费更多时间来帮助具有不同任务的新人。换句话说，当我们感激别人的善意时，它也激励着我们想要帮助别人。斯坦福大学的卡罗尔·德韦克（Carol Dweck）开展了大量研究心态的研究：具有“成长心态”的人认为他们可以通过努力改善某些事物，而具有“固定心态”的人则认为他们的能力相对不可改变。 Dweck发现，这些心态往往会变得自我实现 – 当人们相信他们可以在某些事情上变得更好时，他们往往会随着时间的推移经历更多的改进。事实证明，同理心 – 我们感受和理解他人情绪的能力 – 也会受到我们心态的影响。在一系列研究中，Dweck和她的同事们发现，心态实际上影响了我们的同情心 – 那些被鼓励接受“成长心态”的人，并相信有可能变得更有同情心，实际上花了更多时间试图同情他人。正如研究人员描述Dweck的研究所解释的那样，“移情实际上是一种选择。”移情不是只有少数人有能力的东西 – 我们都有能力变得更有同情心。虽然有时人们很容易对人性气馁 – 特别是在阅读有关战争和犯罪的新闻报道之后 – 心理学证据表明，这并不能描绘出人性的全貌。相反，研究表明，我们希望帮助他人，并有能力变得更加同情。事实上，研究人员发现，当我们花时间去帮助别人时，我们感到更快乐并且感到我们的生活更加充实 – 事实上，人类实际上比你想象的更加慷慨和关怀。心理学家斯蒂芬妮布朗和她的同事调查了帮助他人是否可能与更长寿有关。她告诉参与者他们花了多少时间帮助他人（例如，帮助朋友或邻居做差事或保姆）。五年多来，她发现花费最多时间帮助他人的参与者死亡风险最低。换句话说，支持他人的人似乎最终也支持了自己。鉴于大多数美国人以某种方式帮助他人，似乎很多人都可能从中受益。 2013年，四分之一的成年人自愿参加，大多数成年人花时间非正式地帮助其他人。
The psychologist Carol Ryff is known for studying what is called eudaimonic well-being: that is, our sense that life is meaningful and has a purpose. According to Ryff, our relationships with others are a key component of eudaimonic well-being. A study published in 2015 provides evidence that this is indeed the case: in this study, participants who spent more time helping others reported that their lives had a greater sense of purpose and meaning. The same study also found that participants felt a greater sense of meaning after writing a letter of gratitude to someone else. This research shows that taking time to help another person or express gratitude to someone else can actually make life more meaningful. In a study conducted by psychologist Elizabeth Dunn and her colleagues, participants were given a small amount of money ($5) to spend during the day. Participants could spend the money however they wanted, with one important caveat: half of the participants had to spend the money on themselves, while the other half of participants had to spend it on someone else. When the researchers followed up with participants at the end of the day, they found something that might surprise you: the people who spent the money on someone else were actually happier than the people who spent money on themselves. You may have heard in the news about “pay it forward” chains: when one person offers a small favor (like paying for the meal or coffee of the person behind them in line) the recipient is likely to offer the same favor to someone else. A study by researchers at Northeastern University has found that people really do want to pay it forward when someone else helps them — and the reason is that they feel grateful. This experiment was set up so that participants would experience a problem with their computer halfway through the study. When someone else helped the subject fix their computer, the subject subsequently spent more time helping a new person with a different task. In other words, when we feel grateful for the kindness of others, it motivates us to want to help someone as well. Carol Dweck, of Stanford University, has conducted a wide range of research studying mindsets: people who have a “growth mindset” believe they can improve at something with effort, while people with a “fixed mindset” think their abilities are relatively unchangeable. Dweck has found that these mindsets tend to become self-fulfilling — when people believe they can get better at something, they often end up experiencing more improvements over time. It turns out that empathy — our capacity to feel and understand the emotions of others — can be affected by our mindset too. In a series of studies, Dweck and her colleagues found that mindsets actually affect how empathetic we are — those who were encouraged to embrace “growth mindsets” and to believe it’s possible to become more empathetic actually spent more time trying to empathize with others. As researchers describing Dweck’s studies explain, “empathy is actually a choice.” Empathy isn’t something that only a few people have the capacity for — we all have the ability to become more empathetic. Although it can sometimes be easy to be discouraged about humanity — especially after reading news stories about war and crime — the psychological evidence suggests that this doesn’t paint a full picture of humanity. Instead, the research suggests that we want to help others and have the capacity to become more empathetic. In fact, researchers have found that we’re happier and feel that our lives are more fulfilling when we spend time helping others — so, in fact, humans are actually more generous and caring than you might have thought. Psychologist Stephanie Brown and her colleagues investigated whether helping others may be related to a longer life. She asked participants how much time they spent helping others (for example, helping a friend or neighbor with errands or babysitting). Over five years, she found that the participants who spent the most time helping others had the lowest risk of mortality. In other words, it appears that those who support others end up actually supporting themselves too. And it seems that many people are likely to benefit from this, given that the majority of Americans help others in some way. In 2013, one-quarter of adults volunteered and most adults spent time informally helping someone else.