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A New Study Suggests Selfies Are the Key to Happiness

Past research has linked an affinity for selfies to narcissism and psychopathy. Now, a new study published in Psychology of Well-Being suggests that partaking in social media’s most ubiquitous means of personal representation actually enhances your emotional well-being. (Honestly, the two findings don’t seem totally mutually exclusive.)

The more recent, wholesome study on selfies took place over a period of four weeks. During this time, 41 participants — college students enrolled at a public university on the West Coast — were asked to download an app on their smartphone that would track their levels of happiness via five daily mood surveys: one in the morning, three during the course of the afternoon, one in the evening.

The coeds were divided into three groups. The first (“selfie”) group was asked to take a smiling selfie everyday, based on the theory that maintaining a positive facial expression — even a superficial one — can decrease stress. The second (“personal”) group was asked to photograph something that made them happy, since taking time to savor the “good things in life” is also a proven mood-booster. The third (“other”) group was asked to snap a picture of something they thought another person would appreciate and send the photo to that person, on the basis that providing emotional support is chicken soup for our own souls. For each group, one week of the observation period acted as a control, allowing the researchers to establish each participant’s baseline affect.

Unsurprisingly, at the end of the month, the researchers found that all three groups felt an overall increase in happiness. “Qualitative results showed that those in the selfie group observed changes in their smile over time; the group taking photos to improve their own affect became more reflective and those taking photos for others found that connecting with family members and friends helped to relieve stress,” concluded researchers Yu Chen, Gloria Mark and Sanna Ali. (It’s important to note that that these 18 to 36-year-olds were all going through the unique brand of stress that is undergrad and graduate school, so boosting all of those moods was no easy feat.)

Four out of nine selfie-takers did admit to feeling stressed, inconvenienced and bored by the prospect of finding a time, private place and the emotional energy to stop and smile for a selfie. (After all, “smug-sad” is the best selfie look — happiness is social media suicide — just ask Carrie Brownstein and Rowan Blanchard.)

That said, five out of nine members of the “selfie” group reportedly felt more confident, comfortable and creative when it came to smiling for the camera. “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,” one student observed.

Of course, 41 is an extremely small sample size and only 13 of the study participants were male. So, before you go spamming your feed with selfies in the name of stress relief, keep in mind that these researchers have a ways to go before they can label their results as conclusive. Plus, nobody was asked to actually ‘gram their photos. However, there’s no harm in taking five minutes out of your day to have a personal selfie sesh or send your friend a funny snap. Who knows, it could boost your mood. It certainly works for Kim Kardashian.

[ via Cosmopolitan ]