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Horoscopes and Their Psychological Benefits

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Part of my morning ritual is reading my daily horoscope online. While savoring my first cup of coffee, I like to think about what’s in store for me and my fellow Pisceans that day.

Since this habit took hold, I’ve considered it a private indulgence. It’s kind of like how my bookshelves are full of the excellent literature I’ve read (War and Peace, Madame Bovary, etc.), which makes it okay for me to enjoy the latest Nora Roberts paperback once in a while, or how having a salad for lunch balances the piece of chocolate I’ll have later. Most other areas of my life are so packed with cynicism that the practice of reading my horoscope every morning has become that one space where I can just let go and believe.

As it turns out, reading my horoscope might not be the perfect analogue to junk food after all. Astrologists have long touted the search for patterns in the universe as a way to heighten awareness of the self and others and psychologists are beginning to agree with them. Between the lines about whether you’ll blow that conference or run into your one true love, your daily horoscope has a few important lessons to offer.

Prophecies are self-fulfilling.
Chances are, if you start the day thinking it’s going to be a nightmare, it will be. Conversely, if you pump yourself up for a super day, you’ll stroll through it with confidence and aplomb, making everything seem as if some hidden force is working for you, when really you are working for you. The hazard of horoscopes, of course, is that they can color the rest of your day this way. The trick is to remember that you make your own karma by your attitude. When I read that I’m going to meet a potential romantic partner that day, I think about it while I’m getting ready for work and will maybe don an especially flattering outfit or dab some scent on my wrists. If I do meet someone, it is probably because of the care I’ve taken to present myself at my best, not because the stars were aligned. My horoscope reminds me that wonderful things are possible; I may meet someone life changing or I may not, but having an attitude of readiness can make the difference between seizing opportunities and letting them pass me by.

Remember your divinity.
According to my astrology profile, as a Piscean, I am imaginative and intuitive, compassionate and accepting. Hey, I sound pretty good, don’t I? Most people who read their horoscopes will identify with the positive aspects of their character described. This self-esteem boost is probably why people read their horoscopes in the first place. But stroking one’s ego in this fashion isn’t mere narcissism. By focusing on these virtuous qualities in yourself, you will keep them present in your mind and strive to embody them further. Conversely, when your horoscope adds that you are lazy, self-pitying, and escapist, as mine does, your brains switches into disbelief. You immediately try to separate yourself from those qualities and will probably keep them in mind as warnings of how not to behave. For example, I will go clean my kitchen instead of sitting on the couch watching TV because I am NOT lazy. In this case, the prophecy is self-negating.

A mirror for the soul.
In the wake of the “Me” generation, it seems like the last thing we need is to feed our collective narcissism. But that is not entirely the case. The most important lesson of astrology is self-reflection. Reading about the qualities that others of your zodiac sign possess encourages you to think more deeply about what qualities you possess as an individual and evaluate the way you relate to others. The sense of identity that you get from labeling yourself a Cancer or a Sagittarian is a starting point for building a unique identity. On a daily basis, reading your horoscope creates a presence of mind as you perform tasks that are otherwise routine and automatic. If you read your prediction at the start of your day, as I do, you are aware of all the day’s activities to decide whether they agree with what your horoscope foretold. Reading it at day’s end can also be a great practice of reflection, a time to recall the day’s events and consider what they meant to you.

When looked at more carefully, the practice of astrology has a lot more to offer than pop culture voodoo. Of course, this is not to negate the real entertainment value of horoscopes. Though there is self-reflection and personal exploration involved, I suppose I read my horoscope every morning just because I enjoy it. It is the part of my day when I get to sit back and do something, just because, without worrying whether it is edifying or worthwhile or productive. Critics of astrology disparage it as a relic of an ignorant, pre-scientific past, but maybe we need to hold on to a part of that past and remember a time when we could do something “just because.”


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