What if being happy was as simple as snapping a selfie a day?
For centuries, the brightest minds on the planet have attempted to quantify happiness. Of these, a Harvard study that started in 1938 and continues to this day — tracking over 700 men (and in some cases their spouses) — is the most oft-cited. According to the study, the single most important thing you can do to age well physically — a key component to happiness — is to avoid smoking.
Or, you could switch political leanings. The study reports liberals as having longer lives filled with more sex than their conservative counterparts. Sorry Trump supporters.
To be happy, the study suggests, one needs to have a lot of help from external sources. It finds strong relationships with friends, family, and community to be the most impactful influence on overall happiness.
Or, maybe there’s another way.
A new study from the University of California-Irvine says that taking more selfies, while smiling, increases your overall happiness.
Students spent four weeks taking selfies each day and then reporting their moods. Over time, the students noticed a change in overall demeanor when snapping photos while smiling. They reported feeling happier and more confident and that the mood carried over throughout the rest of the day — even when they faked the smile.
The findings come with a caveat, however, in that it falls squarely into small sample size territory. The study only surveyed 41 students, and used a rather weak control group protocol. In it, they tested the same 41 people for a week sans selfie and measured the results against three weeks with selfies.
That’s not exactly authoritative on its own, but the findings aren’t overwhelming, either.
Anecdotally, the participants claimed to be much happier on their exit interviews, but the study itself only showed a marginal increase in happiness when measured against the placebo effect experienced by the control group — who also reported increases in happiness during the study, even though they weren’t actually doing anything.
Also, the exit interviews detailed that more of the participants found happiness from the responses of the photos they sent than from the act of taking the photo — or smiling in it.
Then, there’s that whole ‘selfies are linked to psychopathy and narcissism thing.‘ But that’s a discussion for a different day.