How to Motivate Yourself

Want to do something well? You might try asking yourself if you can do it rather than telling yourself that you can.
In a new study, a group of researchers found that when people spent a minute wondering if they would complete a task (in this case, rearranging the letters in words to create new words), they then performed better on the task than if they spent a minute telling themselves they would complete it. People also performed better if they wrote the phrase “Will I” before trying the task than if they first wrote the phrase “I will.”
As Dolores Albarracin, a professor at the University of Illinois who worked on the study, concludes in a write-up of the research:

The popular idea is that self-affirmations enhance people’s ability to meet their goals. It seems, however, that when it comes to performing a specific behavior, asking questions is a more promising way of achieving your objectives.

Nature Makes Us Feel More Alive

This should come as no surprise: Spending time in nature makes us feel more alive, according to a batch of recent studies. Past research has already shown that people on excursions in the wilderness feel more alive and merely thinking about past outdoor activities makes us feel happier and healthier. Just last month, a study showed that exercising outdoors for just five minutes could improve our mood and self-esteem.
But this new research shows that the increased vitality we get from being in nature goes beyond the boost we get from the physical activities and interaction with others that often accompany our time outdoors. According to Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester who worked on the study, just 20 minutes in nature a day can significantly lift our energy levels. As he explains in a write-up of the research:

Nature is fuel for the soul. Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.

When a Song Gets Stuck in Your Head

It tends to happen when we’re in a good mood and doing something that doesn’t require a lot of concentration, according to University of Montreal professor Sylvie Hébert and doctoral student Andréane McNally-Gagnon. As Hébert suggests in a write-up of their research:

Perhaps the phenomenon occurs to prevent brooding or to change moods.

The researchers did find that most people still report being in a positive mood after they’ve gotten the song out of their heads, but many describe their mood as neutral once it’s gone —though so far it’s unclear whether the song kills the mood or vice versa.

What Is Happening in This Picture?

As British psychologist Richard Wiseman explains:

The picture is the type of thing that you might find in the Thematic Apperception Test. According to those who support such tests, the story that you created reflects your conscious and unconscious needs, motives, emotions, and conflicts. Is that the case for your story? Or is it all rubbish? Either way, don’t take the results too seriously!

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