31 May 2020 World leisure: news, training & property
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Health Club Management
2020 issue 2

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Leisure Management - Taking control

HCM research

Taking control

You could help members reduce feelings of sadness, conquer binge-eating and improve self-control, using learnings from the Journal of Consumer Psychology, reports Megan Whitby

Megan Whitby, Leisure Media
Working with mental health professionals, you could offer support that helps members with self control photo: shutterstock.com

New research has found that thinking of sadness as a ‘person’ – psychologists call this anthropomorphising – can reduce its effects, according to teams at the University of Austin, Texas, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Hong Kong Baptist University.

With mental wellness interventions becoming increasingly provided in the industry, the research – When sadness comes alive, will it be less painful? The effects of anthropomorphic thinking on sadness regulation and consumption –could inform future initiatives.

Previous studies have shown that someone feeling sad exhibits a desire for urgent reward and little willpower, such as succumbing to hedonistic temptations or engaging in impulsive purchases.

The research included six test studies involving 1,059 participants.

Authored by Li Yang in Austin and Rocky Peng Chen and Fangyuan Chen in Hong Kong, the study explored how anthropomorphic thinking influences people’s experience of sadness and their subsequent behaviour as consumers.

Better self-control
Subjects rated their level of sadness following different psychological prompts designed to induce sadness, such as writing about a sad event.

They were then asked to imagine sadness as a person and describe their characteristics and conclude by rating their levels of sadness again.

All six studies demonstrated that anthropomorphising sadness reduces its severity and changes behaviour.

Yang told HCM: “Anthropomorphic thinking enables individuals to view sadness as an independent human being, separate from them, and consequently creates a feeling of detachment.

“As a result, an individual who anthropomorphises sadness will feel less sad and will also tend to display better self-control in subsequent decisions about consumption.”

Humanising sadness had a positive impact on decision-making, leading to an increase in self-control.

“When faced with purchasing decisions, we found participants were more likely to choose a product with practical features over one with indulgent features, once they’d anthropomorphised their sadness,” said Yang.

Detached reappraisal
The research also touched on the benefits of combatting sadness with detached reappraisal – a method where people are encouraged to think of their role in past or present situations as observers rather than actors, hence creating a feeling of distance.

Reinterpreting a negative situation can help people reprocess their emotions and reduce the effects of their negative experienced emotions.

Originally published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 2

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