All right, you have been experiencing a bad day. Nothing terrible has happened to you. It is just that you awoke this morning feeling grumpy.
So what is the best and quickest way to change your mood? What is the fastest way of cheering-up?
Taking some time off from work? Going on holiday? Having a treat?
Surprisingly, none of these suggestions are guaranteed to make you feel happier.
A new study published last week suggests that indulging ourselves is no more likely to boost our mood than doing nothing.
Rather, the research found that giving to others or practicing acts of kindness are the things most likely to improve our mood and overall well-being, Dr. Katherine Nelson, assistant professor of psychology at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and lead author of the study, told The Huffington Post.
“One thing that I found very interesting, however, was that when we direct these actions towards ourselves, we see no improvement in positive or negative emotions. Nor do we see improvement in psychological flourishing,” she added.
“I think this is important because people are often encouraged to ‘treat themselves’ as a way to feel good. Yet our findings suggest that the best way to feel happy is to treat someone else instead.”
The study involved 473 volunteers who were separated into four groups. Each group had to complete different tasks over a six-week period.
The researchers found that participants who performed acts of kindness—whether those acts were for the world or for specific people—were more likely to report feeling happy or experience an improvement in mood than those who did the self-focused and neutral behaviour.
“Doing things for others offers people opportunities to feel greater positive emotions, such as joy, contentment and love,” Nelson said. “People could feel greater positive emotions, and in turn psycho-logical health, because by being kind to others they are nurturing social relationships, or they could feel greater pride in themselves for doing a good deed.”