Elevate Your Mood
August 10, 2021
Prof. Martin Seligman is considered one of the doyens of modern positive psychology. He once did an interesting experiment during his time at the University of Pennsylvania.
One day, he canceled his scheduled class and decided to take them to a movie. The students loved the pleasant surprise, and everyone had a good time enjoying the movie. When the students got into the class the next day, he handed them a survey form to complete. The survey had one simple question for everyone to answer-.
” On a scale of 1 to 5, please rate the satisfaction you got from the movie.”
All the students responded to the survey.
The subsequent week, Prof. Seligman again told the students that he would not be taking a class. Instead, this time, he took his students to spend their afternoon with underprivileged kids. To play games with them, and teach them some life skills.
The following days when the students got into the class, Professor Seligman what standing at the door with another survey questionnaire-
” On a scale of 1 to 5, please rate the satisfaction you got from spending time with the young kids.”
All the students responded to this survey too.
About six months later, when everyone had pretty much forgotten about the two outings, the wise Professor gave an interesting twist to the experiment. One day, he stood at the doorway to his class and handed everyone a Survey Form with two questions.
- Six months back, you went to a movie. On a scale of 1 to 5, please rate the satisfaction you have today for the experience of the movie you saw.
- Six months back, you spent an afternoon with underprivileged kids. On a scale of 1 to 5, please rate your satisfaction today for the experience time spent with those kids.
The kids filed their responses and the results, not surprisingly, revealed that the satisfaction the students had for their time with the underprivileged kids was substantially higher in percentage terms compared to the satisfaction coming from watching the movie.
The key conclusion of this experiment was that altruistic deeds where we do something for others without any expectation stay with us as positive memories all our lives. But, unfortunately, what we do for ourselves gets buried into the recesses of our memory within a few days.
A Mental Model To Elevate Your Mood
All of us know this to be intuitively true, but whenever we face a choice of doing something for ourselves vs. doing something for others, we err on the side of protecting our self-interest. So we quibble about why we should do something for someone.” What is there in it for me,” we think.
I have written earlier about happiness being the common currency. Serving others is a great way to hoard a lot of this common currency.
So, if you are feeling a bit under the weather and want to elevate your mood, you now have a trick up your sleeve. Do a good deed !!