News

Dr. Katherine Nelson article summarized by HuffPost

A recent advance online article with Assistant Professor Katherine Nelson as senior author was summarized in the HuffPost SLEEP+WELLNESS section on April 25 under the heading

Psychologists Reveal One Of The Best Ways To Boost Your Mood:  It’s not what you may think.

Dr. Nelson’s HuffPost précis, “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 HuffPost quotes Dr. Dacher Keitner, Professor of Psychology at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, “This is a really important study.”

As of late afternoon May 4 there were 15 reader comments . . . virtually all positive (one did observe that “And yet once again, behavioral psychology demonstrates the obvious”.) . . . including

  • Buddhists have known this for 2,500 years . . . Dalai Lama (“Be kind.”)
  • Quote . . . Abraham Lincoln . . . (When I do good I feel good, when I do bad I feel bad.  I chose to do good and that is my religion.)

Nelson, S. Katherine;  Layous, Kristin;  Cole, Steven W.;  Lyubomirsky, Sonja.  (2016, April 21).  Do Unto Others or Treat Yourself?  The effects of prosocial and self-focused behavior on psychological flourishing.  Emotion.   Advance online publication http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000178    Accepted Feb 12, 2016

  • Layous is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at California State Univ, East Bay
  • Cole is Vice President, Research & Development, HopeLab Foundation, Redwood City CA
  • Lyubomirsky is a Professor of Psychology, Univ. of California, Riverside

(Article abstract:)  When it comes to the pursuit of happiness, popular culture encourages a focus on oneself. By contrast, substantial evidence suggests that what consistently makes people happy is focusing prosocially on others. In the current study, we contrasted the mood- and well-being-boosting effects of prosocial behavior (i.e., doing acts of kindness for others or for the world) and self-oriented behavior (i.e., doing acts of kindness for oneself) in a 6-week longitudinal experiment. Across a diverse sample of participants (N = 473), we found that the 2 types of prosocial behavior led to greater increases in psychological flourishing than did self-focused and neutral behavior. In addition, we provide evidence for mechanisms explaining the relative improvements in flourishing among those prompted to do acts of kindness—namely, increases in positive emotions and decreases in negative emotions. Those assigned to engage in self-focused behavior did not report improved psychological flourishing, positive emotions, or negative emotions relative to controls. The results of this study contribute to a growing literature supporting the benefits of prosocial behavior and challenge the popular perception that focusing on oneself is an optimal strategy to boost one’s mood. People striving for happiness may be tempted to treat themselves. Our results, however, suggest that they may be more successful if they opt to treat someone else instead.

PDF Full Text is available via PsycINFO.