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To be happier, should you increase the good things in your life or reduce the bad things?

happier

Focus on increasing the amount of good stuff in your life vs. reducing the amount of bad stuff. Studies show that it really is the little things in life that make us happy.

Researchers often tout the happiness-increasing powers of both religion and exercise. One of the lesser known reasons why they’re so effective is because both provide regular, frequent boosts.

You may be focused on a big goal, something that you’re sure will make you super-happy for a long time… but you’re probably misguided. When it comes to happiness, frequency beats intensity.

Why? One reason is that it’s harder to take for granted a lot of little things vs one, big rare event. Another reason is that “in everyday life, bad events have stronger and more lasting consequences than comparable good events” — so we need more good to make up for unexpected misfortunes.

This “more good beats less bad” theory works across many domains:

With friends:

The best way to maximize happiness when having meals with friends is for one person to take a turn each time paying for everyone’s dinner. It’s a big hit but it results in many more “free” meals for everyone, boosting happiness.

At work:

The best work teams had a five to one ratio of positive vs negative interactions together.

In relationships:

Divorce may have less to do with an increase in conflict and more to do with a decrease in positive feelings. Wanna stay together? Do exciting stuff to keep things fun.

But what if creating more good things in your life is difficult due to constraints of time or money?

Just savoring the good moments you do have (even little ones) is the single most proven method for increasing happiness. It’s effectively treated people with mild/moderate depression. Reliving fun moments with your partner can improve a relationship. Savoring the good things in life is one of the secrets of the happiest people.

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About Eric Barker