What strategies do you use to make yourself feel better, increase your energy levels and reduce your tension? That’s the question Robert Thayer and colleagues at California State University were motivated by in looking for the strategies people use and find effective (Thayer, Newman & McClain, 1994). There’s no revelations in the results but the fact that the same three main strategies were useful in changing mood and reducing tension and raising energy speaks volumes:
- Exercise: rated as the most effective for changing a bad mood, also good for raising energy and reducing tension.
- Music: rated the second most successful way to change a bad mood, and raising energy and reducing tension. This may be a surprising finding for some people.
- Social interaction: good for changing a bad mood and reducing tension although not necessarily so good for raising energy.
Apart from these main categories that were good across the board, there were other strategies that worked in a more selective fashion:
- Pep talk: this was rated as most successful for energy enhancement – above both exercise and music.
- Distractions (like shopping, reading, chores and hobbies): seen as useful for changing a bad mood.
At the other end of the scale, the things people rated as relatively less successful were:
- TV: less effective for reducing tension
- Eating: also less effective for reducing tension.
- Coffee: not that good for raising energy, relative to the other categories.
Gender differences were also seen. Men are more likely to try and distract themselves or seek pleasure, while women are more likely to seek social support.
One surprising finding from this study is how successful music is in all three categories of mood regulation, energy raising and tension reduction. In fact I’ve written before about the seven ways music influences mood.
I know the findings from this study are mostly pretty obvious but intellectually knowing what is good for us can be a world away from actually doing it.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Thayer, R. E., Newman, J. R., & McClain, T. M. (1994). Self-regulation of mood: Strategies for changing a bad mood, raising energy, and reducing tension. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(5), 910-925.
The New Science of Happiness
→ This post is part of a series on the new science of happiness:
- What is Happiness?
- Sustainable Happiness: Why It’s All About the Day-to-Day
- Do We Know What Makes Us Happy?
- Experiences Beat Possessions: Why Materialism Causes Unhappiness
- Being Happy: Enjoyable Activities Beat Improved Life Circumstances
- Practicing Gratitude Can Increase Happiness by 25%
- 10 Grateful Steps to Happiness
- How to Improve Mood, Raise Energy and Reduce Tension
- 3 Happiness Enhancing Activities With Evidence They Work
- 9 Ways Happiness Leads to Success
- Is Happier Always Better? Socially Yes, Financially No
- How to Be Happy, Confucian Style
- Hedonist Philosopher Epicurus Was Right About Happiness (Mostly)
- Schopenhauer’s Extreme Self-Help for Pessimists
- Is Modern Self-Help Just a Massive Money-Making Scam?