Peter Naish, a researcher at Open University, wanted to find out what raises someone's mood. He measured different kinds of changes in his volunteers' moods: Changes in how relaxed they felt, how calm they felt, how alert and bright they felt, and so on. He even measured how valued they felt. And he added all these up to produce a "happiness score."
His volunteers tried a variety of common things people do to improve their mood. This is the list he used:
1. eat a chocolate snack
2. drink some alcohol
3. watch TV
4. look at personal photos
5. listen to music
Most people like all of these, and use them occasionally to boost their moods.
There was one item on the list that worked a lot better than any of the others. Can you guess which one it was? I would have guessed everyone is different, and for me it would probably be listening to music. But results of studies are often surprising and counterintuitive. Our intuition sometimes isn't very good.
The music and the chocolate didn't really change the subjects' moods very much. That was surprising. The alcohol and TV each gave people a 1% rise in their happiness score. But the clear winner was looking at personal photos. It gave people, on average, an 11% rise in their mood. It worked far better than anything else.
While turning on the TV or having a beer might be easier, there's a way to make looking at photos at least as easy: It's a free program called gPhotoShow. Go to their web site and download their program, which becomes one of the screensavers on your computer. You tell it what file to use and it will show the photos in that file as a slide show. I've been using it for years, and I love it.
How often do you sit down and go through photo albums? As much as I enjoy it, I never get around to it. But when my keyboard is idle, my screensaver starts showing photos and displays them randomly, so over a period of several months, I see almost all of them. It reminds me of good times I've had, and people I love.
Just last night, Klassy (my wife) and I were kicking back talking, and my screensaver came on. We ended up watching it for awhile and talking about the different pictures, and it really did lift our moods.
Not only does it lift your mood a lot more than watching TV, but if you're looking at the screensaver with someone else, you can talk and connect while you're watching the slide show (something you can't do as well while watching TV) and connecting with someone you love is probably the best mood-booster there is.
Read about another, similar thing you can do to raise your mood.
Adam Khan is the author of Slotralogy and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.