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.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Officer Stagg meeting Sherry Smith on WISH-TV.

Indianapolis Police Officer Jeff Stagg selflessly maintained the roadside memorial of Shelby Smith, who had been killed by a drunk driver. He picked up trash and placed little plastic flowers, figurines and rocks around it to keep it presentable. Though Shelby died nearly 22 years ago, Officer Stagg didn't want her to be forgotten. And now, his act of kindness won't be forgotten either.

Passerby Kaleb Hall (@kalebhall00 on TikTok) noticed the officer cleaning up the site and asked him what he was doing here. Kaleb had already thought the behavior a little uncharacteristic, "a cop cleaning up trash in the hood," so he went over to inquire.

After explaining that Shelby's memorial was in his patrol area and that he guessed her family had moved away, Officer Stagg told Kaleb, "no one's keeping it up anymore, so I just wanna make sure it stays kept up."

Stagg had noticed the memorial had become surrounded by overgrown grass, weeds and trash. After driving past it every day, Officer Stagg thought enough was enough.


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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."