Taking and sharing selfies improves well-being, combats stress

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Computer scientists at the University of California, Irvine revealed something groundbreaking earlier this week—smartphone photography is an effective way to combat stress. Researchers discovered that taking frequent photographs and sending the images to others are beneficial to one’s well-being. The analysis from UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences was printed in Psychology of Well-Being.

The university’s team was inspired to conduct this experiment due to its interest in the mental health of college students. Students encounter numerous aggravations—challenging classes, being away from home for the first time, alienation and financial struggles. This makes students more susceptible to depression and can negatively impact their grades.

The study’s lead author Yu Chen explained, “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. This is particularly useful information for returning college students to be aware of since they face many sources of pressure.” The researchers hope that the study’s outcome will teach students an additional way to overcome sadness.

Psychologists emphasize many techniques to relieve the hassles of life. Writing down three things that went well during the day, buying gifts for others and even smiling when stressed have been proven to be key for contentment and improving moods. The researchers decided to approach “positive psychology” from a modern perspective by focusing their attention on technology.

The results of the study, which involved 57 campuses, showed that taking and sharing selfies improves one’s mood.

With laptops, cameras and smartphones more popular than ever, the world is a different place in 2016 than it was even 10 years ago. Smartphones are now equipped with innovative cameras and the photos are widely shared on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

Analysts wanted to focus positively on social media. They found out that, as of 2016, Instagram has over 400 million active users and 80 million photos are posted daily. Some of these photos include selfies and the scientists examined this social occurrence. Thus, the photos became a basis for their inquiry.

Researchers enlisted 57 students from campus by posting announcements in the hallways and putting information on Facebook. Prior to the examination, the contributors sat through an instructional conference in a laboratory, completed a conventional survey and signed consent. From there, the examiners instructed participants on their task.

The study would take place over four weeks with the first week being a control period and the next three weeks being an interference period. The researchers created three experimental requirements. The first was Selfie, where students would take a daily selfie of them smiling. The second was Personal, where students would take a daily photo of an object or scene that lifts their mood. The last was Other, where students would take a daily photo of an object or scene that they think would make another person happy and send it to that person.

They additionally designed two Android operations, SurveyApp and MettaApp. SurveyApp gathered the participants’ emotions in the control phase. MettaApp stored participants’ state of minds and allowed them to take photos in the intervention phase. The students took one photo everyday utilizing MettaApp throughout the three-week mediation interval from weeks two to four.

At the conclusion of the study, each participant was invited for individual interviews where they expressed their thoughts on the event. The analysis generated high approval in its feedback. One student stated, “as days went on, I got more comfortable taking photos of myself. If you feel good about yourself, then a selfie would be a way to capture that. It made me feel good thinking ‘this is probably how I look like for the rest of the day.’”

Another participant disclosed, “they just opened my eyes and made me realize what makes me happy. Those are simple things that I never thought about before. Just like everyday objects and places in my room.”

Contributors said that the Other category strengthened their relationships, as one person said, “it was fun to send stuff to my girlfriend to make her laugh. Seeing her reactions will always make me smile.”

Researchers accumulated 692 photos in total, including 271 in Selfie, 227 in Personal and 194 in the Other. The verdict proposed that any kind of photo-taking with the aim of improving one’s health will have a favorable result. Cheerfulness especially rises when sending photos to others. Smartphone photography can be vital to helping students defeat anxiety and alleviate stress and, in turn, feel happier.