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Want to feel happier? Share good news

Health writer and mental health blogger Martha Roberts, shares her advice on how to boost your mood

by Psychologies

The project

None of us wants to sound like we’re bragging, but sharing good things that have happened to us can be a real tonic.

The aim

Spreading the joy of positive experiences can make you a happier person, as can listening to and subsequently enjoying other people’s joy.

The theory

Research* suggests we have three times more positive experiences than negative ones. Yet in a 2001 study, psychology professor Roy Baumeister showed that we tend to focus more on negative experiences than positive ones.

We also get so used to the fuzzy glow we get from positive experiences that over time they fail to have the same impact on us. It also doesn’t help that we can be reluctant to look boastful by sharing our happy experiences. But experts say that if we were able to share our good news less self-consciously, we could be happier. Not only that, but we can also derive joy from being happy for others.

A study** by Brigham Young University looked at people who share positive experiences with a partner twice a week. Those who did became happier, and more satisfied with life over the following four weeks. The study also showed that those who received ‘active-constructive’ support became more positive, suggesting that the response is important, too.

So there’s good reason to tell people your good news – and a good reason to be the enthusiastic person hearing it.

Now, try it out

  • Help other people ‘own’ your good news. Your news might not always feel good to others (such as a pregnancy when a friend is trying to conceive). But experts say if you share it correctly, you can help others feel less alienated by it. Peter Guber, author of Tell To Win (Profile, £9.99), says that if others can see a role to play in the story, they’ll accept it more and even pass it on in a positive way.
  • Highlight other people’s successes. Whether through social media or regular meet-ups, keep in touch with what’s going on in others’ lives. They may not like to talk about their successes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate having them recognised. Your ‘active-constructive’ support could boost their happiness.
  • Practise the ‘active-constructive’ response. How do you react when someone gives you good news? What you’re working towards is active-constructive – something like: ‘That’s amazing! I’m so proud of you!’ Imagine how you’d feel in their position before responding.

*Gable and Haidt, 2005; **Lambert et al, ‘A boost of Positive Affect’, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2013

MARTHA ROBERTS is an award-winning UK health writer and mental health blogger at mentalhealthwise.com

Photograph: iStock

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