'Be flexible for better mental health'
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'Be flexible for better mental health'

If you want to feel good about yourself and want to improve your mental health, just act against your personality traits by being flexible with who you are, suggests a new study.

health and fitness Updated: Oct 24, 2010 17:29 IST

Want to feel good about yourself? Try switching your personality, suggests a new study.

Wake Forest University psychologist William Fleeson found the idea of 'being true to yourself' often means acting counter to your personality traits.

Because authenticity predicts a variety of positive psychological outcomes, Fleeson says his research can help people see they have options for how they behave.

"One implication of these findings is it might be possible for individuals to improve their mental health by acting against their personality traits. Being flexible with who you are is OK. It is not denying or disrespecting who you are. People are often too rigid about themselves and stick with the comfortable and familiar," said Fleeson.

His study discovered that introverts feel more true to themselves or 'authentic' when they are acting extroverted.

When a shy person attends a party and acts like a social butterfly, he is likely to report that he feels like he is showing his true self at that time in that situation.

Acting out of character in this way, some would say, suggests people are faking it whereas the researcher believes that is not the case.

"Authenticity is consistently associated with acting highly extroverted, even for those who characterize themselves as introverts. Despite the cultural assumption that consistency with one's traits would predict authenticity, it did not," he added.

In addition, his research showed that authenticity or feeling like you are being the real you, is consistently associated with acting emotionally stable and intellectual, regardless of the actor's traits.

The multi-part study involved several groups of college-aged students. One hundred-forty three participated in multiple 50-minute sessions in a laboratory setting where they engaged in different activities, such as playing Twister and discussing medical ethics.

The new study is published in the Journal of Personality.

First Published: Oct 24, 2010 16:42 IST