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The key to happiness is living in the micro-moment

July 9, 2009 | 11:18 am

People who appreciate small moments of happiness, laughter and joy through the course of each day tend to be happy people who are more likely to be resilient against adversity and more successful in jobs, relationships and health outcomes.

Smile2 Researchers at the University of North Carolina reached this conclusion after a series of studies that required 86 participants to submit daily "emotion reports" that gauged their emotional status in detail over the course of the day. The study showed that happy people do not need to be Pollyannas or deny the upsetting parts of life. But these people have the ability to put greater stock in small, happy moments. Savoring these blips of pleasure in everyday life, the study found, elevates one's mood overall and leads to more resilience against negative events.

"This study shows that if happiness is something you want out of life, then focusing daily on the small moments and cultivating positive emotions is the way to go," said Barbara Fredrickson, the lead author of the study, in a news release. "Those small moments let positive emotions blossom, and that helps us become more open. That openness then helps us build resources that can help us rebound better from adversity and stress, ward off depression and continue to grow."

The key to focusing on micro-moments, Fredrickson said, is to set aside worries about the big picture.

"A lot of times we get so wrapped up in thinking about the future and the past that we are blind to the goodness we are steeped in already, whether it's the beauty outside the window or the kind things that people are doing for you. The better approach is to be open and flexible, to be appreciative of whatever good you do find in your daily circumstances, rather than focusing on the bigger questions, such as 'Will I be happy if I move to California?' or 'Will I be happy if I get married?' "

The study, published in the current issue of the journal Emotion, was co-authored by researchers at UC San Francisco, the University of Michigan,University of Pittsburgh and Cornell University. Fredrickson has written a book on her research titled, "Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity and Thrive," (Crown Publishing, 2009).

Here's a link to a video of Fredrickson discussing the research.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

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