When Nature unleashes her wrath on us in the form of floods or hurricanes, the eventual disaster is something else. For millions of affected people, it is the end of the world, until a few Good Samaritans or rescuers help them.
These volunteers brave the inclement weather and try to rescue those trapped in disaster situations. While reading such news in the newspaper or watching TV news, one wonders about the mental effect the work of rescuers have on us.
There are two aspects to this: People who read about volunteers reaching out to combat distress situations are kindled by such gestures. Secondly, volunteers themselves are able to fight depression and stress, and inspire hope and confidence among the affected people.
Besides, research states that such people live longer, happier and healthier lives.
The bravado of rescuers has a positive impact on readers of their efforts, but a contrary view is a concept called "vicarious trauma." When you read about violence, you feel terrible, as if you are part of that negative experience. In fact, studies have linked graphic exposure of violence with depression, stress and PTSD symptoms.
There are also studies that prove that such negative news can affect your mood, which may also affect your thinking and overall behaviour. In fact, if the TV program you are watching imparts negative mood experiences like anger, sadness and anxiety, these emotions will influence the way you interpret situations in your life.
However, on the brighter side of things, you can be overwhelmed by the way, some people rise to the occasion in the face of disaster, much like the recent Houston rescuers who brought hundreds of people to safety in the hurricane. This feeling is called "vicarious altruism," an emotion that makes us glow from inside when we see images of rescuers performing selfless acts.
According to neuroscience, such images kick off activity in the brain's pleasure and reward centres of the brain, causing us to feel kindly towards others. Neuroscience also tells us that when we are motivated to do good deeds for others, we are filled with warm feelings. One person can give such motivation to a large group of people in calamities.
Finally, the human spirit wants to help others in a negative situation when it feels good to help others. For instance, if you have a friend in a flood-ravaged region, you can send her a message to say you are praying for her safety. After all, to be part of the solution can be extremely heart-warming.
Besides, once you experience the happiness of helping others, you might be motivated to do it repeatedly.