Taking Happy Photos Can Improve Mood and Reduce Stress

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Yu Chen, Ph.D. Post-doc researcher Department of Informatics University of California, Irvine

Dr. Yu Chen

Yu Chen, Ph.D.
Post-doc researcher
Department of Informatics
University of California, Irvine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: College students are facing increasing amount of stress these days. We are interested in leveraging information technology to help them become happier. We week to implement happiness-boosting exercises in positive psychology using technology in a lightweight way. Since college students frequently take photos using their smartphones, we started to investigate how to use smartphone photography to help students conduct the happiness-boosting exercises.

Participants were divided into three groups and instructed to take a photo per day in one of the following three conditions:

1) a smiling selfie;
2) a photo of something that makes himself/herself happy;
3) a photo of something that makes another person happy, which is then sent to that person.

We found that participants have become more positive after purposefully taking the assigned type of photo for three weeks. Participants who took photos that make others happy also became calmer. Some participants who took smiling selfies reported becoming more confident and comfortable with their smiles. Those who took photos to make themselves happy reported becoming more reflective and appreciative. Participants who took photos to make others happy found connecting with strong ties help them reduce stress.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: As we could see from the study, users could easily practice some happiness-boosting exercises and document them using photos. People can deliberately choose to act in positive ways to become happier, e.g., by smiling, reflecting, and giving.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Now we see many reports on mental health problems from kids to the elderly, from students to working professionals. With the advance of technology today, it is possible and crucial to leverage information technology not only to cure mental illnesses but also to prevent them by maintaining healthy emotional states.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: There have been debates about the roles of information technology in the society. Technology itself is neither good nor bad. Its impact on the society depends on how people use it. We are interested in studying and designing technologies for human good, such as health, education, and the environment.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


Promoting Positive Affect through Smartphone Photography
Yu Chen, Gloria Mark and Sanna Ali
Psychology of Well-BeingTheory, Research and Practice20166:8
DOI: 10.1186/s13612-016-0044-4
Published: 4 July 2016

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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