I’ve been thinking a lot about the happiness studies that show that happy people construe their lives in ways that reinforce happiness, while unhappy people construe their lives in ways that reinforce unhappiness. For example, unhappy folks don’t think about good times. They have as many good experiences as other people, but they don’t remember them as well.
So I’ve been trying to dwell on my feelings of happiness, excitement, relief, gratitude, and love, instead of passing through these states thoughtlessly. This is harder than it sounds; because of the “negativity bias,” bad news makes a much deeper impression, and it’s easy to take happy news or experiences for granted.
For example, yesterday I got an email telling me that Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill was going back to press for a fourth (small) printing. “Great,” I thought absent-mindedly, and continued scrolling down my emails.
Then I thought—wait! This is good news! Take a moment to feel happy!
To help myself enjoy the moment, I pulled down my copy of the book and leafed through it. My goodness, I loved working on that book. I loved learning about Winston Churchill, I loved thinking about the nature of biography, I loved the “forty ways” structure. I loved reading everything Winston Churchill wrote. I re-read Churchill’s “We shall go on to the end…” speech and cried for probably the hundredth time.
My day was patchy—some good, some bad. Taking a moment to enjoy the good news, and to remember the happiness I felt while I was writing about Churchill, helped boost my overall mood.
Oh dear, here comes another happiness banality…accentuate the positive. What can I say? It really works.