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Science & Spirit: Faking Extroversion, Politics Causing Illness, Self-Esteem Boosts Friendships

by Kathryn Drury WagnerSeptember 27, 2019
Columnists
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Should you pretend to be an extrovert? It can be surprisingly effective, a new report claims. Meanwhile, another published paper says that toxic politics are making Americans ill … surprising no one. For these stories, and a bonus story on self-esteem, read on.

Could You Be a Faux Extrovert?

UC Riverside researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky wants you to fake it. Fake being an extrovert, that is. She recently studied introverts—people who tend to be deliberate, quiet and more reserved. She asked them to try on different traits: being talkative, assertive, and spontaneous. For example, chatting with a stranger on a train commute comes naturally to an extrovert, not so much for an introvert. After a week, the faux extroverts reported a greater sense of well-being during their time spent as extroverts, and surprisingly, reported no discomfort. “It showed that a manipulation to increase extraverted behavior substantially improved well-being,” Lyubomirsky wrote in her research. “Manipulating personality-relevant behavior over as long as a week may be easier than previously thought, and the effects can be surprisingly powerful.”

Political Climate Strains Health

Talk about spot-on timing: A study just published on Sept. 25th examined the psychological and physical costs Americans are experiencing due to the political climate. The study was authored by political scientist Kevin Smith, of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He and his team surveyed 800 people in a nationally representative sample in March of 2017, (goodness knows what the numbers might show now…). They found that nearly 40 percent of respondents reported experiencing stress as a result of politics, while roughly 20 percent or more reported losing sleep, feeling fatigued, or suffering depression because of politics. “Approximately 10- to 30-percent of those surveyed also believed that politics took an emotional toll on them by triggering anger, frustration, hate, guilt, or leading to comments they later regretted,” states the study. The study also noted that stress was highest among those who are regularly engaged with politics, so if you’re feeling wigged out, try some of our “5 Ways to Moderate Your News Intake.”  

Friendships Boost Self-Esteem

Do people enjoy high self-esteem when they have a lot of friends, or are friends attracted to those people who have high self-esteem? Yes! Says the new research. Wait, what? Both are factors, according to research from the University of Texas at Austin. Michelle Harris, Ph.D. found in her study that positive social relationships help shape self-esteem. But she also found that these social connections foster a self-esteem that leads to more friendships. Her theory: if children get self-esteem from their positive experiences with adults, then they are able to have better relationships with their peers as teens, which fosters how they feel as adults. It’s a nice chain reaction. The reverse can also be true, where negative relationships trigger poor self-esteem, which attracts more negative relationships. That’s why the study author emphasized the need for clinical interventions when a downward spiral starts. By the way, did you know Spiritualty & Health has a writer devoted to covering the topic of self-esteem? Check out Worthy: A Self-Esteem blog.


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Spirituality & Health’s Wellbeing Editor, Kathryn Drury Wagner, is based in Savannah. She’s been a contributor to the magazine for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle. 


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