Health

Is avoidance the key to happiness?

After studying the concept of happiness for some 15 years, Paul Frijters boils it down to a simple thought: stay away from things that make you unhappy. Here Frijters, a health economics professor at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, shares with us some candid thoughts about how we can be happier in our lives.

Smiling woman

After studying the concept of happiness for some 15 years, Paul Frijters boils it down to a simple thought:  stay away from things that make you unhappy. Here Frijters, a health economics professor at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, shares with us some candid thoughts about how we can be happier in our lives. 

For instance, Frijters promotes the concept of avoiding–as much as you realistically can–unhappy things and people in your life to, well…stay happy. “Remember you are beautiful, smart, desirable, funny, etc., and don’t let reality stand in the way of that self-image,” he says. “At the end of the day it hardly matters whether it is really true, but it matters an awful lot to your happiness that you do not constantly doubt that it is true.” 

Another key to happiness? More avoidance–this time of things that are temptation only and out of reach. (Think–the million-dollar mansion or Angelina-like globetrotting.) “Remind yourself of how much better your life is than others, not how much less you have than others,” he says. “And also, surround yourself with love. The way to do that is to allow yourself to be weak and vulnerable with people who are the same. If you have bad judgment and can’t tell who will reciprocate that love, then you are in serious trouble.”  

And what about happiness that seems unreachable? Can you move on after an angry divorce or a terrible childhood to be happy again? “Everything fades, both the good events and the bad events. You adapt, usually within about two years,” he says. “The main reason you adapt is that you start to take the good for granted and devise stories that allow you to believe the bad was not so bad after all. Here again, self-delusion is key in overcoming the bad. Facing reality is a strategy that works for almost no-one. Convoluted stories in which you emerge as the hero are much better.” 

What do you think?  

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