How To Make Friends: This Will Subtly Help People Open Up (M)

When people tell each other something intimate, it deepens the relationship.

When people tell each other something intimate, it deepens the relationship.

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The Loving-Kindness Strategy That Will Make You Happier

A 12-minute exercise that boosts happiness and empathy while reducing anxiety.

A 12-minute exercise that boosts happiness and empathy while reducing anxiety.

Wishing happiness for others, and really meaning it, makes people feel happier themselves, research finds.

Instead of focusing inwards, sending loving-kindness outwards can work magic.

People who did this for just 12 minutes felt happier than those who concentrated on how they were better off than others.

It also reduced anxiety and boosted empathy.

Professor Douglas Gentile, the study’s first author, said:

“Walking around and offering kindness to others in the world reduces anxiety and increases happiness and feelings of social connection.

It’s a simple strategy that doesn’t take a lot of time that you can incorporate into your daily activities.”

For the study, young people were split into three different groups and each tried a different strategy for feeling happier:

  • Loving-kindness: looking at others and sincerely wishing them happiness.
  • Interconnectedness: considering people’s connections to each other.
  • Comparing oneself favourably to others: thinking about how one is better off than other people.

All were compared to a control group.

The results showed that people who practiced loving-kindness felt happier themselves, were less anxious and more caring and empathetic.

In contrast, those who compared themselves to others felt less caring, connected and empathetic.

Dr Dawn Sweet, study co-author, explained:

“At its core, downward social comparison is a competitive strategy.

That’s not to say it can’t have some benefit, but competitive mindsets have been linked to stress, anxiety and depression.”

Loving-kindness is effective, whatever your personality type, Lanmiao He, study co-author, said:

“This simple practice is valuable regardless of your personality type.

Extending loving-kindness to others worked equally well to reduce anxiety, increase happiness, empathy and feelings of social connection.”

Social media tends to encourage social comparisons, said Professor Gentile:

“It is almost impossible not to make comparisons on social media.

Our study didn’t test this, but we often feel envy, jealousy, anger or disappointment in response to what we see on social media, and those emotions disrupt our sense of well-being.”

The study was published in the Journal of Happiness Studies (Gentile et al., 2019).

This Emotion Is The Most Complex Of All

The face can express this emotion in 17 different ways.

The face can express this emotion in 17 different ways.

Happiness can be expressed in 17 ways on the face, over half the total number of expressions we use for all emotions, research finds.

We change the type of happiness we convey by adjusting the size of our smile and the crinkles that appear around our eyes.

In contrast, disgust, only requires one facial expression, while fear has three and there are five each for anger and sadness.

Happiness, though, is way out in front, said Professor Aleix Martinez, study co-author:

“This was delightful to discover, because it speaks to the complex nature of happiness.”

The conclusions come from a study of over 7 million images collected from 31 different countries.

It was inspired by the ancient idea that there are only around 7 or 8 emotions.

Professor Martinez said:

“To think that humans are only capable of eight emotions is absurd.

We are complex creatures.

What about the different forms of joy?

We experience the world on a much deeper level than just eight emotions.”

The results of the study showed that there are 35 separate facial expression that convey how we are feeling to others across all these cultures.

Professor Martinez said:

“We were shocked, I thought there would be way, way more.”

The researchers found only eight expressions that are used in almost all cultures.

Happiness, though, continually emerged as the most varied.

It suggests happiness is the most complex emotion, if you consider the number of facial expressions required to show its variety.

Professor Martinez thinks it is because happiness helps bind people together, perhaps more than other emotions:

“Happiness acts as a social glue and needs the complexity of different facial expressions; disgust is just that: disgust.”

The study was published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing (Srinivasan et al., 2018).

How To Feel Happier Right Now

The type of music that brings back the most vivid positive memories.

The type of music that brings back the most vivid positive memories.

One of the simplest ways to feel happier right now is to recall a happy memory.

Re-experiencing a happy moment from the past can give you just the required boost.

And music can help you do that — so long as you choose the right type.

Research suggests both happy and peaceful music helps you recall positive memories.

But, if you listen to music that is sad or emotionally scary, it will help bring back the wrong sort of memories.

It seems that upbeat, happy music, in particular, gives the quickest access to happy memories.

The study’s authors write:

“…positive and highly arousing musical cues resulted in the quickest access to memories, and we observed a link between the emotional valence, but not the arousal, levels of the cue and the accessed memories.”

It might not be a surprise that happy music helps bring back good memories.

But there was one surprise: the type of happy music was important.

Peaceful music brought back the most vivid, positive memories.

Peaceful music is typically positive but not too exciting.

As Dr Signy Sheldon, the study’s first author, explained:

“High cue arousal led to lower memory vividness and uniqueness ratings, but both high arousal and positive cues were associated with memories rated as more social and energetic.”

Randomly played music — both positive and negative — was also successful in bringing back vivid memories.

Dr Julia Donahue, who co-authored, the study, said:

“It is possible that when cues were presented in a random fashion, the emotional content of the cue directed retrieval to a similar memory via shared emotional information.”

The study was published in the journal Memory & Cognition (Sheldon & Donohue, 2017).

The Personality Trait Linked To Happiness

Around 80 percent of people are thought to be optimists.

Around 80 percent of people are thought to be optimists.

Realists are significantly happier than both pessimists and optimists in the long-run, research reveals.

Pessimism and optimism are personality traits that lie at opposite ends of a spectrum.

Realists, meanwhile, sit halfway in between, occupying the middle ground.

Optimists may suffer in the long-term because they are often disappointed.

The regular disappointment can end up being a stronger emotion than the pleasure gained from anticipating positive outcomes.

The most optimistic people are 13.5 percent less happy than realists, the study found.

Around 80 percent of people are thought to be optimists.

The problem for pessimists is perhaps more obvious: they are constantly dreading the worst.

This dread can overtake any benefits gained from things turning out better than expected.

The most pessimistic people are 21.8 percent less happy than realists, the study also found.

Both optimists and pessimists make decisions based on biased false beliefs.

Dr Chris Dawson, study co-author, said:

“Plans based on inaccurate beliefs make for poor decisions and are bound to deliver worse outcomes than would rational, realistic beliefs, leading to lower well-being for both optimists and pessimists.

Particularly prone to this are decisions on employment, savings and any choice involving risk and uncertainty.

I think for many people, research that shows you don’t have to spend your days striving to think positively might come as a relief.

We see that being realistic about your future and making sound decisions based on evidence can bring a sense of well-being, without having to immerse yourself in relentless positivity.”

The study included 1,601 people who were tracked for over 18 years.

They reported their life satisfaction and any psychological distress each year.

People were also asked about their finances and their tendency to over- or under-estimate them.

The results showed that realists were most satisfied with their lives (life satisfaction is a measure of overall happiness, in contrast to momentary pleasure).

In the age of COVID-19, realism can be an advantage, said Professor David de Meza, the study’s first author:

“Optimists will see themselves as less susceptible to the risk of Covid-19 than others and are therefore less likely to take appropriate precautionary measures.

Pessimists, on the other hand, may be tempted to never leave their houses or send their children to school again.

Neither strategy seems like a suitable recipe for well-being.

Realists take measured risks based on our scientific understanding of the disease.”

The study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (de Meza & Dawson, 2020).

Acts Of Kindness Really Do Boost Happiness

Acts of kindness can nudge your happiness in the right direction.

Acts of kindness can nudge your happiness in the right direction.

Little acts of kindness really do provide a small, but significant boost to happiness.

Things like running an errand for a neighbour, helping someone in the street or giving someone a present unexpectedly all boost the giver’s happiness.

That’s to say nothing of the happiness of the person who received the help.

Psychologist have even found that helping others boost happiness more than helping yourself.

This could be because helping others helps to nurture social relationships.

Researchers pooled the results of 21 different studies to reach their conclusions.

The happiness gains from an act of kindness are equivalent to one point on a 1-10 scale, the study’s authors concluded.

The study’s authors conclude:

“These effects are comparable to other positive psychology interventions.

This suggests that performing acts of kindness will not change your life, but might help to nudge it in the right direction.”

Acts of kindness have even been suggested as a way to help people experiencing excessive amount of anxiety.

Dr Oliver Scott Curry, the study’s lead author, said:

‘Humans are social animals. We are happy to help family, friends, colleagues, community members and even strangers under some conditions.

This research suggests that people do indeed derive satisfaction from helping others.

This is probably because we genuinely care about others’ welfare, and because random acts of kindness are a good way of making new friends, and kick-starting supportive social relationships.’

Dr Curry continued:

‘Many groups in the last decade have been keen to establish a link between kindness and happiness, including the UK government.

Offering kindness to others has been explored as a possible panacea for many of our social ills, ranging from social isolation to more serious mental and physical health conditions.

Our review suggests that performing acts of kindness will not change your life, but might help nudge it in the right direction.

We recommend further research is done to compare the effects of being kind to family and friends as opposed to strangers.

This is an area about which we know surprisingly little at the moment.’

The study was published in the journal Open Science Framework (Curry et al., 2016).