Taking and sharing selfies can help make you a happier person

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There are many sources of stress relief in life. Meditation. Going for a walk in the forest. Eating a really big cake. But now we can add a new one to the list, with the discovery that taking and sharing a picture of yourself on your phone can boost your happiness levels.

In a four-week study that involved 41 college students - 28 women and 13 men - participants were asked to perform their normal day-to-day activities while taking different kinds of photos. Three times a day, they also logged their emotional state.

Rise in Positive Moods

One group was asked to take a smiling selfie once a day. Another was asked to take an image of something that made them happy. A third group was asked to snap a picture of something that they thought would make someone else happy, and send it to them.

With 2,900 mood measurements gathered, all three groups experienced a rise in positive moods over the course of the study. Some of the selfie group reported that they become more confident and comfortable with their photos over time.

Those who took pictures of things that made them happy said they became more reflective and appreciative, while those who took photos to make others happy reported becoming calmer, saying that the connection to their friends and family helped relieve stress.

Benefits to Users

"You see a lot of reports in the media about the negative impacts of technology use, and we look very carefully at these issues here at UCI," said Gloria Mark, a senior author on the paper describing the study, published in the journal Psychology of Well-Being.

"But there have been expanded efforts over the past decade to study what's become known as 'positive computing,' and I think this study shows that sometimes our gadgets can offer benefits to users."

"Our research showed that practicing exercises that can promote happiness via smartphone picture taking and sharing can lead to increased positive feelings for those who engage in it," added Yu Chen, lead author on the paper.

"This is particularly useful information for returning college students to be aware of, since they face many sources of pressure."

  • Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.