To Achieve Happiness, Focus on What Makes You Miserable

June 7, 2016

3:00 pm

Being happy is something everyone strives for. Whether it be professional, romantically or socially, the goal of happiness is something everyone can get on board with. Unfortunately, no one knows how to accomplish this feat. Eating right, exercising, making time for friends, falling in love and watching your sports team win a championship can occasionally help with this problem. But what if you can’t make any of that happen? According to a study from Randy J. Paterson, the director of the Changeways Clinic in Vancouver, misery will get you closer to happiness than anything else.

Wait, what? Misery? As in, sadness? How could this possibly be the case? How can the antithesis of happiness be the key to happiness? Don’t worry, there is research to back this up, which states that happiness is such an subjective term in the complicated world we live in, it’s difficult to discern on its own.

“Between the influences of our culture, our physiology, and our psychology,” Paterson writes in his book How to be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use. “It appears that striving for happiness is a tiring matter; we’re swimming against a powerful current. We might almost say that happiness in such circumstances is unnatural.”

According to the study, focusing on the bad aspects of life can rewire the brain to more adequately register when something makes you happy. Quite simply, if you can tell someone what is going wrong in your life, you’ll be able to discern what is good in your life much easier. Whether it be your poor health or your inability to make close friends, knowing the problem is the first step in making it better.

“Once you begin recognizing the behaviors you’re doing that make you unhappy, then you can begin shifting them bit by bit,” said Patterson in an interview with New York Magazine. “The challenge is to let go of the idea that you’re going to change your entire life all at once.”

While the research is there and the explanations are eloquent, this practice still takes some mental prowess to accomplish. But, as Paterson puts it, choice is the key to being happy. When you choose to be happy rather than focusing on what makes you happy, your perspective change will be enough to keep a smile on your face for more than a few minutes. After all, negativity is nothing more than a mental construct.

“We don’t need to contradict all of our negative thoughts, our negative beliefs about ourselves, but we need to begin recognizing that they are constructions,” said Paterson. “They’re not a complete nor even valid representation of reality.”

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Conor is a writer, comedian and world-renowned sweetheart. As the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co, he’s written about everything from Kickstarter campaigns and budding startups to tech titans and innovative technologies. His background in stand-up comedy made him the perfect person to host Startup Night at SXSW and the Funding Q&A at Innovate! and Celebrate, posing questions to notable tech minds from around the world. In his spare time, he thinks about how to properly pronounce the word "colloquially." Conor is the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co. You can email him at

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