Spa operators could help guests reduce feelings of sadness, successfully make healthy eating choices and improve self-control and discipline, using learnings from new research published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
Called When Sadness Comes Alive, Will it be Less Painful? The Effects of Anthropomorphic Thinking on Sadness Regulation and Consumption, the research found that thinking of sadness as a ‘person’ – what psychologists call 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 and programmes becoming increasingly popular in the spa and wellness industry, this research and its approach could inform future treatments and help equip guests to take control of their emotions.
Previous studies have shown that someone feeling sad exhibits a desire for urgent reward and little willpower, such as succumbing to hedonic temptations or engaging in impulsive purchases. The new research explores how anthropomorphic thinking inﬂuences people’s feelings and subsequent behaviour.
The research included six test studies involving 1,059 participants, 56 per cent of whom were female and 44 per cent were male. Each test involved subjects rating their level of sadness following prompts designed to induce sadness, such as writing about a sad event which had happened to them. Participants were then asked to imagine sadness as a person and describe their characteristics and concluded by rating their levels of sadness again. All six studies demonstrated that anthropomorphising sadness reduces its severity and changes behaviour.
Lead author Li Yang explains: “We found that anthropomorphic thinking enables individuals to view sadness as an independent human being that is 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.”
In one study participants anthropomorphised their sadness and chose either a healthy food option (salad) or an unhealthy one (cheesecake). Evidence highlighted that those who humanised sadness were less likely to indulge in the unhealthy choice because as their sadness reduced so did their self-indulgent behaviour.