All of us want to be nice most of the time because it’s the quality everyone searches for. But this positive quality can be a very real negative. Read further to know how and why.

Girl talking nicely to an elderly woman

There are so many ways we can be nicer to people. We think that all the kindness and thoughtfulness is appreciated all the time. But it is shown by a new study that being nice may not do us any favors at all.


It is stated in a study issued in the journal Nature Human Behavior, that people who are nice, often show symptoms of depression more as compare to the people who are self-centered and egotistical.


The lead author, Dr. Masahiko Haruno, and researchers examined whether the pattern of pro-social thinking was associated with longer-term clinical symptoms of depression. They began by providing a personality to almost 350 people to conclude whether they were pro-social or individualist. Then they included their will to share fiscal resources with people who are less wealthy. By using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), they examined the brains of pro-socials and individualists. This way they were capable of knowing that throughout different conditions, which sections of the brain are activated.


The images of brains between the two types of people turned out considerably different. Pro-social people displayed high activity in the amygdala which is an evolutionary area of the brain linked with spontaneous reactions, including stress, in situations where money was shared unevenly. Individualists, on the other hand, showed an expanded amygdala activation only when others got more money. The two groups also showed a distinct pattern of activities in the hippocampus, which is another fundamental area of the brain linked with automatic stress response.


The researchers then did a general depression survey called the Beck Depression Inventory to conclude if these brain activity patterns were associated with the symptoms of depression in the previous two weeks. They found out that having a prosocial pattern of brain activation was connected with more depression.


People who are nice are more defenseless to depression because they often go through guilt, empathy, and stress at an extreme level, according to the researchers. And this emotional sensitivity is linked with the deepest and the most automatic areas of the brain.


But luckily there is still hope for people who are naturally so kind. Dr. Mauricio Delgado, a neuroscientist at Rutgers University, tells Scientific American: “Although the average pro-social may have a sensitive amygdala and hippocampus, the other primal stress-related brain region in the study, there are plenty of other higher-order brain regions involved in depression, including the prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with regulation of these automatic feelings.”


Pro-socials can learn to manage and combat their more inherent emotions by practicing higher-level brain methods (like the pre-frontal cortex) through talk therapy. And the more they can practice the pre-frontal cortex to press down amygdala-driven stress, the less probably they will be to slip into depression.

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