The key to being more interesting
Plus, why acts of kindness make us feel good
“We fall into these social traps that lead us to be a lot more pessimistic about our social lives than reality warrants.” — Erica Boothby
Acts of kindness. As we approach the two-year mark of the pandemic, most of us can attest to the stress and anxiety it’s caused. One way to cope? Try exercises that promote kindness or gratitude. Psychologists Sonja Lyubomirsky and Kristin Layous developed the positive activity model of happiness. It suggests that gratitude and kindness help promote well-being because they satisfy our basic psychological needs for autonomy, connectedness, and competence. In a study published in October, researchers used this model in a 3-week online intervention to see if it could increase well-being during the pandemic. They put people into three conditions and asked them to write a list each week. The gratitude group was asked to list five things for which they were grateful; the kindness group listed five acts of kindness they had recently committed; and the control group listed a few work accomplishments. People who made the gratitude and kindness lists reported more positive emotions than the control condition. While these activities didn’t make people’s COVID anxiety disappear (a tall order), it did boost their moods. “Engaging in activities to promote gratitude and kindness can boost positive emotions during the pandemic outbreak,” co-author Jesus Alfonso Datu told PsyPost. A gratitude list or act of kindness may not fix your pandemic anxiety, but it could provide a quick boost of joy when you need it most.
You are fascinating. Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us strive to be, well, interesting. We may go about this by reading obscure books, traveling to foreign places, or getting to know other interesting people. But as the School of Life explains, this approach doesn’t really get to the core of what makes us unique and, therefore, interesting. “Before we’ve ever read a single book, gone to any foreign country or met any Nobel Prize laureates, we are all compellingly different anyway. The problem is that we just don’t allow ourselves to come across as such,” they argue. “Imagine if we placed a microphone in any of our minds and listened closely in on the chatter.” We might discover all of the things that make us unique: the people we’re attracted to, our weird habits, quirky obsessions, and so on. In other words, we’re all innately interesting, but a fear of being normal can undermine the very things that make us fascinating. As The School of Life puts it, “So-called interesting people are simply those who’ve allowed themselves to listen in on and share with others a selection of what is really going through their minds.”
We all have times when we feel like a fraud. Self-doubt can be corrosive, but there are ways to turn that negative voice in our heads into an ally. Listen to learn more.
ON THE HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST
Feb 7: When you’re talking to someone, how often do you wonder, “what does this person think of me?” In the second episode of our series Mindreading 2.0, psychologist Erica Boothby explains why our perceptions of our social interactions are often distorted, and what we can do about that.
Feb 14: It’s easy to spot bias in other people, especially those with whom we disagree. But it’s not so easy to recognize our own biases. Psychologist Emily Pronin says it’s partly because of our brain architecture. We explore what Pronin calls the introspection illusion, in part three of our Mind Reading 2.0 series.
ON THE MY UNSUNG HERO PODCAST
Feb 10: After Deb Merchant started chemotherapy, her partner stepped up — for her, and for all of the other chemo patients in the hospital, too.
A man pushes his car to a hotel and tells the owner he’s bankrupt. Why?
LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE
What is special about these words: job, polish, herb?
Answer: they are pronounced differently when the first letter is capitalized.
FROM THE TWITTERATI…
A MOMENT OF JOY
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