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It’s been well documented that expressing gratitude and listening to music can lift your spirits. But a new study shows that these activities may not work for everyone. Myriam Mongrain, a psychologist at York University in Toronto, and her colleague Susan Sergeant looked at the effects of gratitude exercises and listening to music on people classified as either self-critical or needy.
As the researchers had hypothesized, gratitude exercises were helpful for self-critical participants. Thinking about the good things in their lives helped replace a negative self-focus with an appreciation for the outside world. The researchers chose listening to uplifting music to help the needy participants create positive emotional experiences without the company of others.
Unlike the gratitude exercise, and contrary to the researchers’ hypotheses, listening to music did not help the needy group. In fact, both “interventions led to decreases in self-esteem and no improvement over time for needy participants” compared to the control group. The likely explanation is that neither exercise gave needy people what they crave to feel good: other people. Next: How to Use Positive Psychology Wisely