A new study led by Indiana University has found that self-care – the process of engaging with a product of experience in order to boost one’s emotional well-being – is highly beneficial, particularly in periods of increased stress. Unfortunately, the experts argued, people rarely take advantage of this technique to help themselves pass through difficult times.
“There are so many ads reminding us to take a moment for ourselves, for self-care, but we find that people are least likely to engage in this kind of behavior when they need it most,” said study co-author Kelley Gullo Wight, an assistant professor of Marketing at Indiana.
“There’s this moment of self-sabotage. People who feel the most constrained or stressed aren’t taking advantage of these self-gifts. You might think, I’ll be too distracted, or I won’t be able to have a mindful moment to benefit, but our research shows this belief is wrong. People are able to benefit and focus even if they’re stressed. In fact, that exactly when you need it the most. Taking the time to ‘self-gift’ will lead you to feel less stressed in the long run.”
The researchers used behavioral experiments to understand why people would not take advantage of self-gifting experiences – which can range from listening to music to drinking tea or just taking a moment to relax – particularly when it would benefit them the most.
The analysis revealed that people who felt pressed for time were least likely to engage in self-gifting, although they were the ones who experienced the strongest boosts in how happy and relaxed they felt afterwards. These findings could help marketers encourage consumers to “self-gift,” by framing their products or experiences as beneficial, especially during busy and stressful periods.
“This holiday season, if you’re focusing on everyone else, you’ve got people coming into town, and absolutely no time for yourself, take two minutes. You may tend to want to wait for self-care until the stressor is over, but our research shows you’ll benefit most by taking a minute for yourself anyways. That’s when you should be looking out for you,” Wight concluded.
The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
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