Are you one of those people who likes taking selfies? Even if you’re not, we’re sure you at least have that one friend who is selfie-obsessed. But before you pick on that trigger-happy friend and tell them how annoying their habit is, read on. It turns out that taking selfies is actually great for your mental health.  

Wait, What?

The internet is full of stories that talk about the negative aspects of taking selfies – promoting vanity and narcissism, occurrence of low self-esteem, and increasing feelings of dissatisfaction, loneliness and isolation. But psychologists at the University of California, Irvine, have proven once and for all that the selfie craze has real benefits. According to the study, snapping selfies for Instagram, Snapchat, or any one of the other social media platforms, tends to make us more confident in ourselves and happier overall.  

The Study

In this first-of-its-kind study published just before back-to-school season in the US, the authors found that students can combat the blues with some simple, deliberate actions on their mobile devices. The study findings were published in the Psychology of Well-Being. "Our research showed that practicing exercises which can promote happiness, via picture taking and sharing on your smartphone, can lead to increased positive feelings for those who engage in it," said lead author Yu Chen, a postdoctoral scholar in UCI's Department of Informatics, in Science Daily. "This is particularly useful information for returning college students to be aware of, since they face many sources of pressure,” she adds. Chen and her colleagues designed and conducted a four-week study involving 41 college students. The subjects – 28 female and 13 male – were instructed to continue their normal day-to-day activities (going to class, doing schoolwork, meeting with friends, etc) while taking part in the research. Subjects reported their moods three times a day using the smartphone apps. In evening surveys, they were asked to provide details of any significant events that may have affected their emotions during the course of the day. The project involved three types of photos and participants were randomly assigned to take photos of one type. The first was a selfie, to be taken daily while smiling. The second was an image of something that made the taker of that photo happy. The third was a picture of something the photographer believed would bring happiness to another person and this image was then sent to that person. These photographs were meant to help the researchers determine how smiling, reflecting and giving to others might impact users' moods.  

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Selfies Make Me Feel Confident

Researchers collected nearly 2,900 mood measurements during the study and found that subjects in all three groups experienced increased positive moods. Some participants in the selfie group reported becoming more confident and comfortable with their smiling photos over time. The students taking photos of objects that made them happy became more reflective and appreciative. And those who took photos to make others happy became calmer and said that the connection to their friends and family helped relieve stress.  

Expert Talk

Wellness coach Ramona Mordecai offers her take on the subject. “A human being goes through about 10,000 thoughts in a moment – that being said, the thoughts that trigger the emotions are sensations like fear, shame, guilt, gratitude, humility, grace, etc. There is a constant coding and decoding of situations that takes place between thought, emotion and a compel to action. People code themselves in a particular way to be decoded into a certain stereotype they want to be seen as. We are constantly playing roles to see which role fits our perception and reality. A selfie gives us the opportunity to start framing ourselves into a personality that is best suited to its ‘coding’ in the mind. And social media experiments of publishing these selfies gives us feedback in which this coding is deciphered by others. “Hence, you can say that a selfie is like an image board, where you can bring out the creative possibilities of exposing the different facets of your personality and mood, and, in turn, continuously give you the space to frame yourself into a fuller personality with different possibilities which keeps the creativity flowing. There is hope in creativity. And with hope comes happiness,” Ramona explains. What they’re all trying to say here is that selfies make us happier, more confident, and boost our self-esteem. So the next time your friend reaches out to take a selfie, you might want to join them!


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