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The Weirdly Easy Way to Make Yourself More Optimistic

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If you’re not a natural Pollyanna, take heart. “Research shows that change is possible, even if you’ve had the same mindset since you were 10 years old,” says happiness researcher Shawn Achor, head of GoodThink and author of The Happiness Advantage. “When it comes to things like pessimism, genes may play a role, but they’re not the end of the story.”

Willing yourself to be more optimistic probably won’t get you very far, but focusing on what you’re grateful for can shift your outlook, he says.

Not sure where to start? “Try to think of three new things you’re happy about while brushing your teeth at night,” Achor says. The word new is important—if you let yourself repeat items, you might default to some variation of “family, friends, and health” every day. But if you have to come up with three novel, specific reasons to be happy or grateful, your brain will naturally start making mental notes of things you can include in your list throughout the day.

And all that scanning for silver linings and unexpected kindness and moments of joy? Well, that’s basically the difference between a pessimist and an optimist. In fact, when Achor and his team asked a group of mild pessimists to try the habit for 21 days, then re-tested their outlooks with a battery of psychological tests, they found most people in the group tested as mild optimists. “You can do this with 4-year-old kids or 84-year-old adults,” says Achor. “Even a one-minute happiness habit can begin to affect the other 24 hours in your day.”

And if you need still more reason to start flexing your gratitude when you reach for the toothpaste, consider this: Achor’s research shows that people with a more positive mindset are 40 percent more likely to get a promotion and report having more creativity and productive energy. As Achor says, “Most people think happiness follows success, when really investing in your happiness now might be what helps you get there.”

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What Pop Culture Gets Wrong About Dissociative Identity Disorder
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From the characters in Fight Club to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, popular culture is filled with "split" personalities. These dramatic figures might be entertaining, but they're rarely (if ever) scientifically accurate, SciShow Psych's Hank Green explains in the channel's latest video. Most representations contribute to a collective misunderstanding of dissociative identity disorder, or DID, which was once known as multiple personality disorder.

Experts often disagree about DID's diagnostic criteria, what causes it, and in some cases, whether it exists at all. Many, however, agree that people with DID don't have multiple figures living inside their heads, all clamoring to take over their body at a moment's notice. Those with DID do have fragmented personalities, which can cause lapses of memory, psychological distress, and impaired daily function, among other side effects.

Learn more about DID (and what the media gets wrong about mental illness) by watching the video below.

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Humblebraggarts Are the Worst (Science Says So)
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Humblebraggarts. We all know (at least) one: that person who takes a woe-is-me tack to ostensibly "complain" about something when the real intent is to boast.

"It's noon, I haven't had a cup of coffee, and the espresso machine at this Mercedes dealer is broken. FML!"

"Have been sitting on the runway for 30 minutes. Next time I'm flying commercial instead of private."

In many ways, it's another version of #FirstWorldProblems, and social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have only made the practice more pervasive. As TIME reports, a new study has concluded that people see right through this fake humility—and like people less for doing it.

Researchers at Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a series of nine experiments, including a week-long diary study and a field experiment, to both identify the ubiquity of the behavior and then determine its effectiveness as a form of self-presentation. Their findings, which were published in the January Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, determined that if you're going to brag, people would rather you just be transparent about it.

"It's such a common phenomenon," Ovul Sezer, study co-author and an assistant professor of organizational behavior at UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School, told TIME. "All of us know some people in our lives, whether in social media or in the workplace, who do this annoying thing. You think, as the humblebragger, that it's the best of both worlds, but what we show is that sincerity is actually the key ingredient."

Of the 646 participants, 70 percent of them could recall a recent humblebrag they'd heard—the majority of which (about 60 percent) were complaint-based. But the study showed, overwhelmingly, that any statements that could be perceived as humblebragging (whether complaint- or humility-based) "are less effective than straightforward bragging, as they reduce liking, perceived competence, compliance with requests, and financial generosity," according to the study's authors.

"Despite the belief that combining bragging with complaining or humility confers the benefits of each strategy," the study concluded, "we find that humblebragging confers the benefits of neither, instead backfiring because it is seen as insincere.”

In other words: they're not fooling anyone.

"If you want to announce something, go with the brag and at least own your self-promotion and reap the rewards of being sincere, rather than losing in all dimensions," Sezer said—though she suggested that an even more effective tactic is to find someone else to boast on your behalf. "If someone brags for you, that's the best thing that can happen to you, because then you don't seem like you're bragging," she told TIME.

However, Sezer's final piece of advice was not to be too hasty in your dismissal of humblebraggarts as a whole. "We all do it, to some extent," she said. "I hope I don't sound like I'm humblebragging when I talk about this research."

[h/t: TIME]

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