Social psychologist Arthur Aron wondered if having long time married couples act more like newly dating couples would result in an increase in marital satisfaction. He had couples generate a list of exciting activities and a list of pleasant activities that they might do together. Then he assigned some couples to do something from the list of exciting activities and other couples to do something from the list of pleasant activities.
I’ll bet you can guess what he found. :-) The couples who added some new and exciting activities into their life, acting more like newly dating than like long time married couples, had significantly more happiness than the couples that engaged in more pleasant activities or the couples that served as baseline and did nothing different at all.
Acting excited and trying new things results in feeling excited and more energized about your relationship. Keeping things fresh leads to more relationship satisfaction.
Several studies looked at whether the words you say and the way you say them have any effect on your mood. One study by psychologist Emmett Velten asked some people to read cards with increasingly positive statements on them (“I do feel pretty good today”). Another group read cards with neutral statements unrelated to mood on them (“The Orient Express travels between Paris and Istanbul”). Using pre- and post-tests of mood, the group that read the increasingly positive statements had a happier mood afterwards while the neutral statement group showed no change in mood.
Other researchers have expanded this format to include telling jokes, laughing, reading stories about happy events, all with the same result. Acting as if you are happy results in people reporting being happier.
What’s the takeaway here? If you want to feel a certain way, act the way you want to feel. Don’t wait for the feelings. Change your behavior and the feelings will follow.
So, how do you want to feel today? :-)
My name is Carol J. Tadeusik. I am a licensed psychologist in Durham, North Carolina. I invite you to read my blog and get to know me and a bit about how I think. And by the way, I love comments!