Scientists tested 3 ways to psych yourself up. One was the clear winner.

Let's say you're playing a game of soccer. And it's not going well.

Photo from Yasuyoshi Chibay/AFP/Getty Images.


It's been a long, tough game so far, and while everyone on your team has been playing pretty well, the other team is ahead.

You know you can push through and win ... but first you need to psych yourself up. So what would you do? Would you give yourself a pep talk? Plan out an elaborate strategy?

What's the best way to motivate yourself to not just stay in the game, but to actually do better?

Scientists wanted to test this question, so they set up an odd little competition.

Scientists in England recruited nearly 45,000 people (a stupendously huge sample size for a psych study, by the way) and pitted them against a computer in a kind of virtual race. The players had to try to find their ways through randomized grids of numbers as fast as they could.

Each player got three chances to play this game (plus one practice round). Between the rounds, the players were given different kinds of video motivational messages (presented by Olympic athlete Michael Johnson, which is kind of delightful).


Yeeeeaah! Johnson in the 2000 Olympics. Photo from Andy Lyons /Allsport.

The messages broadly fell into three categories:

Category 1 was self-talk.

This is pretty much what it says on the label. In these motivational messages, Johnson encouraged the players to talk to themselves, saying stuff like, "I can beat that score!"

GIF from "The Waterboy."

Category 2 was imagery.

This category of motivational messages encouraged players to unleash their inner eyes and visualize stuff — like beating the computer or getting through the number grid super-fast.

GIF from "Spongebob Squarepants."

And Category 3 was called "if-then planning."

In this case, Johnson encouraged players to come up with specific battle plans for the game. "If I start worrying about mistakes," they might have said to themselves, "then I will calm down and relax."


The scientists also broke each of those three categories into four different focuses.

The motivations were sorted into piles based on what the desired outcome might be, like "focusing on staying calm," "remembering the instructions," or "thinking through the process of playing the game itself."

Then the scientists collected data on all those different factors, put them through their science-o-matic data analyzer (note: doesn't actually exist), and lo and behold ... results popped out!

So which approach won?

Greg Rutherford long-jumps in the 2012 Olympics. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images.

It turns out that saying "I can do this" (either in your mind or out loud) is a game-changer.

Both the self-talk and imagery-motivated players did well, especially when they focused on the outcome they wanted or the process that could get them there. But self-talk not only helped players do better — it made them feel that they were doing better, which is key.

Unfortunately, there were some categories that didn't do as well. If-then planning helped a bit if the players focused on the outcome or process, but it wasn't as strong as the other two. And focusing on the instructions or trying to control emotions didn't really help much either.

Self-talk isn't the right solution for every situation. But if you're struggling with psyching yourself up for something, it's worth trying it out.

The scientists pointed out that their study looked at a short-duration computer game, so getting yourself pumped up before a business meeting or track event might require a different strategy. Plus, everyone's brains work a little differently. What might work for one person might not work for everybody.

But the scientists on this project think this work could help people design better interventions to help people stay motivated.

If you need to get pumped up, channel this adorable kid.

Video from dmchatster/YouTube.

You might feel a little silly, but go on over to your mirror and tell yourself that you can do this. Or channel your inner Little Engine That Could ("I think I can, I think I can"). Or maybe announce to the world: "I'll beat that darn computer this time."

It might just work.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.