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The Iconic Edition
|7 Feb 2019|7 mins

Does It Matter That We Can't Stop Reading Our Horoscopes?

How often do you check yours?

How many times a week do you check your star sign? Or, perhaps an easier question: how many times a day do you check it?

I have all the apps – AstrologyZone, Co-Star, you name it – and use them on the regular.

Another confession: I’ll click on anything with even a vague mention of a star sign in its header (guessing you do too?).

Also: for a good time, I google: “Is Mercury in retrograde?”

I can’t help myself. And, I’m far from alone in this.

“When everything is good, I kind of forget about them,” one friend said. “But when they aren’t so great, I’m on them 24/7.”

“I’m addicted. But I love it,” said another.

But can this daily check in actually be good for you?

Thanks to Getty Images

Dr Harold G Koenig – a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the US’s Duke University Medical Center – told Elle Magazine not long ago that faith “provides resources for coping with stress” because “... strongly held beliefs give meaning to difficult life circumstances and provide a sense of purpose.”

Research also regularly reveals that people with some kind of faith – be it in a higher power, of any description, or anything else in which they choose to place their faith – on average are less likely to be hit with depression, have higher self esteem and are on the whole less anxious.

Reading positive news on the daily in the form of a three-line horoscope, then, can mean you’re not as worn down by life’s little (or big) bummers. Instead you’re actively practicing the when-one-door-closes-another-one-opens mentality and conditioning yourself to believe there are good things coming your way.

An interesting way of thinking about it: there’s this thing called the Barnum effect which might go some way to explain why they work such a treat. It’s apparently a play on PT Barnum’s – the famous American showman’s – go-to line: ‘We’ve got something for everyone.’ To explain: once we start to read what’s in store according to the stars, we’re already in someway committing to believing so we look to apply even the broadest of statement to specific points in our lives. We’re looking for good news, searching for the upside. That silver lining, we know – no, believe – is on way.

Taking the time, even if it’s only a minute, to read something inspirational about your day is the perfect way to pause. It doesn't even need to be believed. Just to prompt the thought: how can I make this day a better one?

A tool for “problem solving or creative thinking.” This is how Susan Miller – New York astrologer and founder of AstrologyZone – described her work to CBS.  (She’s also the woman Cameron Diaz checks in with before buying real estate.)

Take, for example, today’s reading for us Virgos from Miller’s AstrologyZone app:

“By making changes to your schedule or routine, you’ll feel a greater sense of freedom, you’ll be more excited about doing your work.”

No matter what it says really, it's a reminder take stock. To look forward to, or to make, a bright side.

“You should have seen my screen time report post break up,” said one friend. “It was almost all AstrologyZone.”

Like passing the time on Instagram or binge-watching Netflix, it’s a distraction to take you away from whatever angst you’re feeling. It makes you feel better in the there and then. That feeling doesn’t have to last. It’s a soothing of sorts. No wonder it can get addictive.

Not everyone, though, is a fan nor advocate. Fair enough, given almost every app gives a different reading for the same sign on the same day.

A study a few years ago published in the Journal of Consumer Research revealed that those who checked in on the daily with their horoscopes were more likely to lean towards impulsive, indulgent and erratic decisions, especially so when their reading hinted at bad news.

A sample group were all given an unfavourable reading and then given the choice: go to a party (considered to be an ‘indulgent’ movie) or, clean the house (a ‘virtuous’ one).

“Conventional wisdom might suggest that for people who believe they can change their fate, an unfavourable horoscope should result in an attempt to improve their fate,” wrote the authors of the study.

The bulk of the sample group opted for the former.

“Our results showed that reading an unfavourable horoscope actually has the opposite effect on a person.”

(Some, though, might argue this has little to do with their horoscope and more to do with the party.)

Horoscopes sure, for a lot of us, are the promise of hope when everything else is falling to pieces, the assurance that something better is on the way. Their reassurances offer a semblance of control, real or imagined, in a world in which you feel you’ve lost yours entirely.

They help some of us to believe there’s a divine reasoning as to why you didn’t get that job, why you didn’t get the pay rise and why he/ she chose to leave you. That it’s Not. Your. Fault. And that better things are coming.

But it doesn’t always need to be so life changing. For me (and just about everyone we spoke with), it’s simply a daily reminder that things can get better. As for the daily (or hourly) check in: if it feels good, do it.

Elle Glass
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