Life

This quick happiness hack could help you feel less sad today, according to experts

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Hollie Richardson
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Happiness hack

With a weekend of rain and low temperatures ahead, this research into a small trick that could make you feel less sad has come just in time. 

Autumn is well and truly here, with rain forecast across the UK for the whole weekend. When the weather takes such a turn, it’s easy to feel a little bit blue, especially after a summer of heatwaves, beach parties and cocktails on the roof. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the term used for a type of depression that encompasses these feelings when they are at their worst – and you should see your GP if this is affecting you. 

But if you’re just in need of a quick pick-me-up, scientists have researched a creative way to banish the blues. 

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Inspired by Disney Pixar’s 2015 film Inside Out, researchers set out to explore how anthropomorphic thinking – thinking of emotions as people – influenced their sadness. 

They suspected that people who anthropomorphized sadness would psychologically detach from this negative emotion and feel less sad. And it turns out they were right…

Inside Out: the film inspired research into happiness and sadness.
Inside Out: the film inspired research into happiness and sadness.

The research, which was headed by scientists Fangyuan Chen, Rocky Peng Chen and Li Yang (from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the University of Texas and Hong Kong Baptist University), was published in Journal of Consumer Psychology. They specifically wanted to see if alleviating sadness increases the chances of more conscious buying decisions. 

They asked participants to write about a time when they felt very sad, such as after the loss of someone close to them. Then, one group wrote about who sadness would be if it came to life as a person. The second group were instead asked to write about what sadness would be like in terms of the emotional and affective impacts. Finally, both groups rated their levels of sadness on a scale of one to seven, and the results revealed that participants reported lower levels of sadness after they had written about the emotion as a person. 

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Yang, from the University of Texas at Austin, explained: “People who had anthropomorphized sadness described the emotion in ways like ‘a little girl walking slowly with her head down,’ ‘a pale person with no smile,’ or ‘someone with grey hair and sunken eyes.

“People start to think of an emotion as a person who is separate from themselves, which makes them feel more detached from the sadness.”

She also said that anthropomorphizing the emotion of happiness won’t have a helpful effect.

“It’s probably not wise to apply this strategy for positive emotions because we do not want to minimize these good feelings,” she added.

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Continuing their research into whether or not sadness leads to better self-control when making decisions about what to buy, the scientists found that people who anthropomorphize were less likely to impulse buy.

“Activating this mindset is a way to help people feel better and resist temptations that may not benefit them in the long-term,” said Yang.

So, the next time you’re feeling sad, it might be worth getting creative and writing down what you think sadness looks like. It could make you feel a little bit better and might stop you from any impulse buys.

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Images: Disney Pixar, Getty

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