Feeling Down? Four Ways to Cheer Up

Tal Ben-Shahar, one of Harvard’s most popular professors, shares with us four ways to bring happiness into our lives. Drawing form the field of Positive Psychology, Ben-Shahar explores the salutary effects of

1) Acceptance: “There is a great deal of negativity and disapproval toward painful emotions in our culture. Many believe experiencing emotions such as anxiety, sadness, fear, or envy means that something is wrong with us, when in fact the opposite is the case. Two kinds of people do not experience these painful emotions: psychopaths and dead people.

“2) Simplicity: “Imagine listening to your favourite piece of music, and rating it on a one to 10 scale. Now imagine listening to your second-favourite piece of music and rating it on the same scale. In all likelihood, you gave both a perfect, or near-perfect, score. What, though, if you played the two pieces together? How would you rate your experience? Certainly not even close to a 10. There can be too much of a good thing, and when it comes to happiness, less is often more.”

3) Exercise: “We have the need for exercise, and when this need is not fulfilled, we pay a price. We were not made to be inactive, sitting in front of a computer all day. We were made to run after an antelope for lunch, or run away from a lion so that we don’t become lunch. We frustrate a physical need when we don’t exercise, and when we frustrate a need – of vitamins, proteins, or exercise – we pay a price for it.”

4) Positive Focus: “Happiness does not only depend on the external events in our lives but also on our interpretation of these events. This is why a person who seems to have everything may be unhappy and a person with little may be living a happy life. Our happiness levels are not only dependent on what we have, but also on whether we appreciate what we have.”

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