New ISU Study Tests Methods for Increasing Happiness

Mar 29, 2019

When we're feeling down, what's the best way to cheer ourselves up? A new study from Iowa State University suggests that the key to happiness might lie in wishing others well.

On this "news buzz" edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer sits down with Douglas Gentile, professor of psychology at Iowa State University, to learn more about his recent study that put techniques to reduce anxiety and increase happiness to the test.

For the study, college students were instructed to walk around a campus building for 12 minutes and practice one of three techniques: "loving-kindness," or looking at the people around them and wishing them happiness; "interconnectedness," or identifying connections they share with others; and "downward social comparison," or thinking about ways in which they may be better off than each of the people they encountered. Results revealed that practicing "loving-kindness" led to increased happiness, empathy, feelings of connectedness, and lower anxiety levels in participants.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Happiness, also revealed the pitfalls of comparison. Those who practiced downward social comparison felt less empathetic, caring, and connected than the students who practiced loving kindness. Gentile warns that this may reveal broader truths about how the culture of comparison on social media could impact our well-being.

Also on the program:

IPR Reporter Grant Gerlock joins to talk about the recent arrest of leaders of a Des Moines area street gang as well as a new water quality lawsuit.

Des Moines Register Reporter Barbara Rodriguez gives updates from the Iowa state legislature.

IPR Western Iowa reporter Katie Peikes joins with an Iowa flood update.

Pete Damiano, director of the Public Policy Center and Heath Policy Research Program at the University of Iowa, discusses what the president’s unexpected strike against the ACA this week may mean for Iowans insured under that system.

And, IPR Studio One Host Tony Dehner gives a preview of this year's 80/35 festival.