Feel better

Kevin Lewis

October 05, 2019

Hurts so good: Pain as an emotion regulation strategy
Ashley Doukas et al.
Emotion, forthcoming

In the field of emotion regulation studies, cognitive reappraisal has been established as the preferred strategy for coping with painful negative feelings. For some, however, asking them to think more about an already distressing situation can be quite literally “like pulling teeth.” Indeed, many people voluntarily cause themselves physical pain during upsetting situations (e.g., getting a deep tissue massage after a stressful week or hitting a punching bag when angry); however, there is currently little empirical evidence of the relative effectiveness of such behaviors. The present study tested two primary hypotheses: (a) some people will choose to inflict pain to regulate negative emotional states; and (b) pain provides effective short-term relief from negative emotion. The findings from these two studies demonstrate that, given the opportunity, participants will choose to use physical pain in addition to other strategies, like reappraisal or distraction, to cope with various sources of negative emotion. We further show that physical sensation in general, and pain in particular, are equally effective in coping with negative emotion. These results suggest a reconsideration of the dominance of cognitively based emotion regulation. We discuss the implication that benign physical pain may be a broadly effective and underrecognized coping strategy.

Comparing the effects of performing and recalling acts of kindness
Kellon Ko et al.
Journal of Positive Psychology, forthcoming

Research suggests that both performing prosocial behaviors (i.e. acts of kindness towards others) and simply recalling them can increase well-being. Do performing and recalling prosocial behaviors impact well-being equally? To investigate this question, we conducted a study with a 2 × 2 design in which participants were randomly assigned either to perform prosocial behaviors, recall prosocial behaviors, both perform and recall prosocial behaviors, or do neither (control). Participants in all conditions assigned to perform and/or recall prosocial behaviors increased in well-being more than those in the control condition. However, participants in the three prosocial conditions did not significantly differ in their well-being gains. Presumably, it is much easier to recall, rather than perform, prosocial behavior. Accordingly, our results suggest that happiness seekers and well-being interventionists consider recalling acts of kindness as a cost-effective practice to raise well-being.

When Sadness Comes Alive, Will It Be Less Painful? The Effects of Anthropomorphic Thinking on Sadness Regulation and Consumption
Fangyuan Chen, Rocky Peng Chen & Li Yang
Journal of Consumer Psychology, forthcoming

Prior consumer research has studied the impact of anthropomorphism on product perception and evaluation. This research explores how anthropomorphic thinking influences people's experience of emotions and subsequent consumption behavior. Based on research on emotion regulation and the psychological process of detachment, we show that individuals instructed to anthropomorphize sadness (i.e., think of sadness as a person) report less experienced sadness afterward (Studies 1 and 2A). The same result is observed for its opposite, happiness, such that anthropomorphic thinking dilutes happiness (Study 2B). We argue that this reduction of emotion occurs because anthropomorphic thinking increases the perceived distance between the self and the anthropomorphized emotion, thereby creating a feeling of detachment. Evidence for a detachment process is found via measurement (Studies 3 and 4) and a theory‐guided moderation, with the effect lessening when sadness is seen as a dependent (vs. independent) person (Study 3). These findings have implications for consumer behavior. When sadness is ameliorated by anthropomorphic thinking, people tend to display better self‐control in subsequent consumption, as manifested by a greater likelihood of choosing a healthier or more practical product (Studies 4 and 5).

Changing stress mindsets with a novel imagery intervention: A randomized controlled trial
Jacob Keech, Martin Hagger & Kyra Hamilton
Emotion, forthcoming

Changing individuals’ stress mindset has emerged as a technique that may be effective in aiding stress management, but there is limited data on the effects of this technique in managing stress in “real-world” contexts beyond a few days. This study aimed to (a) evaluate the efficacy of a novel imagery-based intervention in changing stress mindset and (b) evaluate the effect of the intervention on stress-related outcomes, compared to a control, after 2 weeks. The study adopted a preregistered randomized controlled trial design. University students (N = 150) attended a research laboratory twice over 2 weeks, receiving the intervention or control condition stimuli in Session 1, and completing measures in both sessions. Academic performance data was collected from university records. Mixed model ANOVAs revealed a large-sized difference in stress mindset among intervention group participants immediately following the intervention and at the follow-up relative to controls. There were also robust effects of the intervention on perceived distress, positive and negative affect, proactive behavior, and academic performance at the follow-up in individuals with high baseline perceived distress, although not in the whole sample. Findings indicate that the intervention is a promising approach for changing individuals’ stress mindset and that changing stress mindset can have beneficial effects on coping with ecological stressors. Future research should use intensive longitudinal designs to examine momentary activation of stress mindset and responses to ecological stress.

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