Okay, it’s not really top secret. But I’m convinced that, if followed, this formula will indeed make you happier. Even thought it sounds simplistic, it took me a long time and a lot of research to realize that this was the way to think about happiness.
Here it is: To think about your happiness, you must think about FEELING GOOD, FEELING BAD, and FEELING RIGHT (or, in fancier language, positive affect, negative affect, and life satisfaction.)
Although you might think that feeling good and feeling bad would operate in a see-saw, in fact, research shows that they are distinct—and so is feeling right.
Studies show that absence of feeling bad doesn’t mean that you feel good, and also, you can feel very good and very bad at the same time. And just because you feel good doesn’t mean you feel right; sometimes, in fact, you might choose to feel bad in order to feel right.
So to boost your happiness, you have to think about all three elements and figure out how to increase your good feelings, decrease your bad feelings, and make sure you’re feeling right:
1. Feeling good
Think of something fun to do this weekend.
Make a plan with a friend.
Make a small purchase that will boost your happiness.
My self-inking home-address stamp had gotten so faint that it was barely legible; I was made ridiculously happy by my purchase of a bottle of ink to replenish it.
2. Feeling bad
Do you start your day on a bad note—nagging your kids, cursing on the subway? Make a change.
Does some task nag at you? Take care of it.
I finally made an appointment to get my teeth cleaned; I’m six months overdue.
Do you feel guilty about something you did or didn’t do? Make amends in some way.
3. Feeling right
Is there a skill that you feel that you should have, but you don’t? Figure out a way to learn it.
A friend of mine learned to type as an adult.
Is there a subject that you feel that you ought to know more about?
I feel that I need to understand more about the Iraq War than I do.
Ask yourself: “Is there some major element in my life that just feels wrong to me?”
Try not to panic if the answer is “yes,” and don’t worry now about doing anything about it this minute. Just consider whether you’re not feeling right because of your job, your city, your relationship, your body, etc. Understanding that something isn’t right is the first step to being able to make it right.
A friend was raving about a book that’s about to come out–Sharon Moalem’s Survival of the Sickest. Apparently it explains why, in many circumstances, disease can have beneficial effects. Plus, my friend says, it’s full of the kind of interesting information that’s fun to trot out at a dinner party. This is just the kind of thing I love, so I went to check out the blog. Lots of fascinating info there.