Entries in mood (6)


In Health and Illness: Your Partner’s Mood Matters

Ever felt like the moods of the people around you affect your own mood? Psychologists have long been interested in the idea of such emotional “spillover”, especially in relationships. For example, research has shown that happiness is contagious, as are bad moods across a range of stressful situations. It seems intuitive that if we are living with someone who is depressed then our own mood could also be negatively affected. 

Before getting into specific research on this topic, I should note that it is generally hard to disentangle the exact nature of the association between two people’s mental states, especially when they spend a lot of time together. Was Joan’s depression a reaction to being surrounded by John’s depressive, or were they both depressed all along? (Or is there no relationship whatsoever between their mental health statuses?). Bottom line: like many things, the only way to really know whether two individuals’ mental states spill over to one another is to look at both of their mental health status across time.

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Cups or No Cups, Anna Kendrick was Right, You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone

When faced with a potential break-up, who among us hasn’t uttered the phrase, “You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone?” Whether expressed as a threat or stated matter-of-factly, it is an all-too-familiar anthem for underappreciated dumpers and dumpees alike. Even if you were only bluffing when you said it, you can seek solace in the fact that whether they want to or not, your exs are indeed going to miss you when you’re gone.

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Building a Better Breakup Song

Remember the epidsode of The Office when, after getting dumped, Michael listens to the iTunes preview of James Blunt's "Goodbye My Lover" over and over?

After a breakup, should you wallow in your misery by listening to sad music, or should you try to lift your spirits by listening to happy music? Across three experiments, people who had recently experienced interpersonal loss, like a breakup, preferred music that reinforced their current mood (sadness) rather than elevated it.1 For example, in their third study, the researchers randomly assigned half of the participants to write about an interpersonal loss, like a lost love, breakup, or death of a loved one, while the other half of participants wrote about a non-interpersonal loss (like an academic or career-related loss). After thinking about a non-interpersonal loss, people preferred cheerful music (click here for a feel-good tune), but following interpersonal losses, participants preferred sad music (click here if you were just dumped). So it seems that sometimes we use music to raise our spirits, but when it comes to breakups and lost relationships, we surround ourselves with more sadness.

Read more about music and relationships here:

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1Lee, C. J., Andrade, E. B., & Palmer, S. E. (in press). Interpersonal relationships and preferences for mood-congruence in aesthetic experiences. Journal of Consumer Research.


Does Misery Love Company?

Emotions prompt people to engage in adaptive behaviors that help them act appropriately in their current situations. When you feel fear you run away from the source of the threat; guilt motivates us to mend things following a transgression (e.g., “I’m sorry”); jealousy causes you to be on guard because your relationship partner might be poached away by a rival.

Does sadness have a social function, too? We’ve all heard that misery loves company; it’s possible that sadness prompts us to seek out social bonds. When you’re sad you might need social and emotional support. Maybe the purpose of sadness is to motivate social connections -- that “misery seeks company.”

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Bringing Home More Than Just the Bacon: When Work Life Collides with Home Life

“Leave your troubles at the door.” 

It’s a standard rule of thumb to leave your emotional baggage behind when you clock in at your job. You can’t concentrate on your daily tasks if you’re worried about whether Little Danny will remember his lines in his school play audition. You can’t smile and talk up your proposal to a highly coveted client if last night’s argument with your significant other is still replaying itself, every hurtful word, over and over in your mind. Unless you’re a Method actor or perhaps some incarnation of a brooding songwriter-comedian-artist, your personal life has no place at your job.

The reverse is also true. Imagine you bring your work troubles home...

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What Are the Health Benefits of Sex? There’s an App for That (Sort of)

In an effort to manage my snacking while dissertation writing I recently downloaded an app to my iPhone called LoseIt! LoseIt! is essentially a food diary that keeps track of your caloric intake for the day. You can increase the amount of calories you can eat in day by entering any exercise you have done. I noticed that sexual activity is listed as one of the exercises and you can even select whether your sexual activity was passive, moderate, or vigorous. I'm not exactly sure how to validate these categories, so you just have to use your best judgment.

LoseIt! suggests that an hour of vigorous sexual activity burns about 33 calories. That's it!?!?

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