Snapping selfies with your smartphone and sharing them may boost your mood, according to a new study.
The findings show that taking pictures and sharing them “can lead to increased positive feelings,” lead study author Yu Chen, a postdoctoral scholar in informatics at the University of California, Irvine, said in a statement.
The research, which looked at college students, found that taking selfies and other cellphone photos might help the students better cope with emotional problems.
The startup of the fall semester can be a tough time for students, and so the new findings may be particularly useful information for those returning to college and facing pressure, Chen said.
Students may feel pressure from financial problems, loneliness and isolation, and significant amounts of coursework, which may all affect how well students do in school and may even lead to depression in some cases, said the study, published in the journal Psychology of Well-Being.
Previous research has linked selfies with negative psychological effects. For example, one study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences in 2015 found a link between posting a lot of selfies on social media and being self-centered. But the new results show that taking selfies may have a positive effect on people’s emotional well-being, the researchers said.
In the new study, the researchers tracked 41 college students over a one-month period. The students first downloaded a special survey app onto their phones, which they used to document their moods during the first week of the study. The students then used a different app to both take photos and document their moods over the next three weeks. Three times a day, the students checked in, using the app to report their moods.
During the last three weeks of the study, the researchers divided the students into three groups: People in the first group were asked to take a daily selfie. People in the second group were asked to take a daily photo of something that normally made them happy. People in the last group were asked to take a daily photo of something that they thought would make another person happy, and then send the photo to that other person.
The researchers then compared the data on the participants’ moods during the first week of the study with the their moods during the next three weeks. Results showed that most people in all three groups experienced improvements in their moods during the three weeks in which they were asked to take daily photos.
For example, some people in the selfie-taking group said they became more confident after they started taking the daily selfies. The people who took photos of objects said that they became more appreciative of the world around them. And the people who took photos for others said they became calmer and felt more connected to their families and friends. That connection helped them to reduce their stress levels, the people reported.
“We were not entirely surprised that users increased their positive feelings after conducting these exercises by taking photos,” Chen says. “However, we were surprised to find that participants who took photos that made other people happy and sent the photos became significantly calmer” compared with the participants in the other two groups, she said.
It is not clear why exactly this happened, but previous research has shown that feeling more connected with others may make make people calmer, the researchers said.