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Do you agree that happiness is a choice and can be cultivated? Yes, of course, but… Let’s have a look today at the barriers that may hinder you to be happy and live your best life.

barriers to happiness

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” – Henry Ford

You know from experience: to achieve happiness is not simple. For instance, did you know that we usually carry much more attention to the negative aspects of our lives than to the positive aspects? This phenomenon is known as the ‘negativity bias’.

To make things worse, there are four other obstacles to well-being.

Positive psychology discovered five major barriers that may prevent us from flourishing:PP-book

  1. the ‘negativity biais’
  2. the ‘duration neglect
  3. social comparison
  4. the hedonic treadmill
  5. lack of self-control

If you’d like to know more about positive psychology in general and about these hindrances in particular, I highly recommend to read the book Introducing Positive Psychology. A Practical Guide by Bridget Grenville-Cleave.

Bad is stronger than good…

Let’s focus today on the negativity bias. The scientific evidence is striking and – at first glance – rather disturbing. The psychologist Roy Baumeister summed it up as “Bad is stronger than good.”

In practice, this means that we have a tendency – and a habit! – to focus our attention more on the negative emotions, experiences and information and giving them greater weight in comparison to positive emotions, experiences and information.

… and how this impacts our lives

Consequently, we all remember more easily an insult and take more seriously any reproach or criticism than a compliment or a positive feedback.

Some clients I had to help to even hearing (!) and noticing compliments, approval and praise. They were so used to focus on what was ‘wrong’ and not working (and criticising themselves).

Likewise, it also seems that negative emotions reduce our level of subjective well-being more than positive emotions can possibly increase it.

We’ll see in tomorrow’s post what you can do to counterbalance this.


Don’t believe me anything!

Sharpen your self-observation.

Watch yourself closely during the next 24 or 48 hours:

  • Do you notice compliments?
  • Are you open to receive them and enjoy the feelings they ignite in you?
  • Do you dwell on things that ‘don’t work’ are ugly or disturbing?
  • How long do you get affected by words that hurt you or provoke unpleasant feelings?

I’d love to know what you found out doing this exercise or before about how we focus on the negative.

Please leave a comment and share this article.


PS: this post is part of a 30 day blogging challenge.

Patricia Mauerhofer
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