Can positive memories help treat mental health problems?

Young laughing woman imagining somethingResearchers from the University of Liverpool have published a study highlighting the effectiveness of using positive memories and images to help generate positive emotions.

It has been suggested that savouring positive memories can generate positive emotions. Increasing positive emotion can have a range of benefits including reducing attention to and experiences of threat.

The study, supervised by Dr Peter Taylor from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, investigated individuals’ emotional reactions to a guided mental imagery task focussing on positive social memory called the ‘social Broad Minded Affective Coping (BMAC)’ technique.

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Measuring happiness on social media

University of Iowa computer scientists found that Twitter users' feelings of satisfaction with their lives remained steady over time, consistent with traditional social sciences research on subjective well-being. CREDIT Photo by Lesly B. Juarez.

University of Iowa computer scientists found that Twitter users’ feelings of satisfaction with their lives remained steady over time, consistent with traditional social sciences research on subjective well-being.
CREDIT: Photo by Lesly B. Juarez.

Chao Yang, lead author on the study and a graduate of the UI Department of Computer Science, says this study is different from most social media research on happiness because it looks at how users feel about their lives over time, instead of how they feel in the moment.

“In countries like Bhutan, they are not satisfied with current measures of success like GDP, so they are measuring the Gross National Happiness Index,” Yang says. “They want to know how well their people are living; we saw an opportunity there.”

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Outgoing people lead happier lives

Friends togetherResearch from the University of Southampton has shown that young adults, who are more outgoing or more emotionally stable, are happier in later life than their more introverted or less emotionally stable peers.

In the study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, Dr Catharine Gale from the Medical Research Council’s Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton and a team from the University of Edinburgh and University College London, examined the effects of neuroticism and extraversion at ages 16 and 26 years on mental wellbeing and life satisfaction at age 60 to 64 and explored the mediating roles of psychological and physical health.

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Misery of work second only to illness

The Mappiness app sends data from thousands of users to researchers at the University of Sussex and LSE who are working on mapping happiness across the UK. CREDIT: Alex Bryson/George MacKerron

The Mappiness app sends data from thousands of users to researchers at the University of Sussex and LSE who are working on mapping happiness across the UK. CREDIT: Alex Bryson/George MacKerron

British people are at their least happy while at work – except when they are sick in bed – according to researchers at the University of Sussex and the London School of Economics (LSE).

The team analysed more than a million responses uploaded to a smartphone app, called Mappiness, that sporadically asks users questions such as how they are feeling, where they are and what they are doing.

Mappiness users receive a ‘ding’ on their smartphone at random times of the day, prompting them to complete a short survey, during which they rank their wellbeing using a sliding scale.

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Valuing your time more than money is linked to happiness

AshleyFullValuing your time more than the pursuit of money is linked to greater happiness, according to new research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

In six studies with more than 4,600 participants, researchers found an almost even split between people who tended to value their time or money, and that choice was a fairly consistent trait both for daily interactions and major life events.

“It appears that people have a stable preference for valuing their time over making more money, and prioritizing time is associated with greater happiness,” said lead researcher Ashley Whillans, a doctoral student in social psychology at the University of British Columbia. The findings were published online in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

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The Lancet: Happiness and unhappiness have no direct effect on mortality

Happy seniorsA study of a million UK women, published in The Lancet, has shown that happiness itself has no direct effect on mortality, and that the widespread but mistaken belief that unhappiness and stress directly cause ill health came from studies that had simply confused cause and effect.

Life-threatening poor health can cause unhappiness, and for this reason unhappiness is associated with increased mortality. In addition, smokers tend to be unhappier than non-smokers. However, after taking account of previous ill health, smoking, and other lifestyle and socio-economic factors, the investigators found that unhappiness itself was no longer associated with increased mortality.

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The search for happiness: Using MRI to find where happiness happens

Kyoto University scientists have used MRI brain scans to find the location of happiness. CREDIT: Kyoto University

Kyoto University scientists have used MRI brain scans to find the location of happiness.
CREDIT: Kyoto University

Kyoto University researchers narrow in on the neural structures behind happiness.

Exercising, meditating, scouring self-help books… we go out of our way to be happy, but do we really know what happiness is?

Wataru Sato and his team at Kyoto University have found an answer from a neurological perspective. Overall happiness, according to their study, is a combination of happy emotions and satisfaction of life coming together in the precuneus, a region in the medial parietal lobe that becomes active when experiencing consciousness.

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Survey of 5,000 reveals people’s ‘happy habits’

Happiness is more than just a feeling; it is something we can all practise on a daily basis. But people are better at some ‘happy habits’ than others. In fact, the one habit that corresponds most closely with us being satisfied with our lives overall – self-acceptance – is often the one we practise least.

Can money buy happiness?: The relationship between money and well-being

A woman holding money

Researchers are investigating new directions in the science of spending. Four presentations during the symposium “Happy Money 2.0: New Insights Into the Relationship Between Money and Well-Being,” delve into the effects of experiential purchases, potential negative impacts on abundance, the psychology of lending to friends, and how the wealthy think differently about well-being. The symposium takes place during the SPSP 16th Annual Convention in Long Beach, California.

Anticipation for experiential purchases

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Don't worry, be (moderately) happy, research suggests

Could the pursuit of happiness go too far? Most self-help books on the subject offer tips on how to maximize one’s bliss, but a new study suggests that moderate happiness may be preferable to full-fledged elation.

The researchers, from the University of Virginia, the University of Illinois and Michigan State University, looked at data from the World Values Survey, a large-scale analysis of economic, social, political and religious influences around the world. They also analyzed the behaviors and attitudes of 193 undergraduate students at Illinois.

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