We all want to be happier. (Captain Obvious says you’re welcome.)
After all, happiness is a result and a driver. There are certainly ways to increase personal productivity, and with it entrepreneurial success: through a one-day burst of output. Taking steps to consistently increase effectiveness. By not doing certain things every day.
Yet one of the best ways to be more productive is to simply be happier. Happy people benefit from a self-reinforcing happiness-productivity loop. Happiness = productivity = more happiness = more productivity….
So yeah: Happiness is good for you.
Some of the time.
An easy way to think about happiness is to do a little math. (I know: “Math” and “happiness” don’t usually appear in the same sentence.) Say today you experience three moments of joy and one of contentment. I experience one moment of joy, one moment of contentment, and one moment of anxiety.
Happiness math says you must be happier than me, at least for today, and plenty of research indicates high levels of positive emotions and correspondingly low levels of negative emotions are an essential aspect in health and subjective well-being.
Yet a 2014 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that emodiversity–the variety and relative abundance of the emotions that humans experience–is a better predictor of mental and physical health.
Experiencing lots of emotions–like alertness, amusement, awe, contentment, joy, and gratitude, as well as anger, sadness, embarrassment, fear, guilt, shame, and anxiety–makes you, for want of a better way to put it, more emotionally well-rounded.
And because of that, as the researchers write:
emodiversity may prevent specific emotions–in particular detrimental ones such as acute stress, anger, or sadness–from dominating the emotional ecosystem. For instance, the experience of prolonged sadness might lead to depression but the joint experience of sadness and anger–although unpleasant–might prevent individuals from completely withdrawing from their environment. The same biodiversity analogy could be applied to positive emotion. Humans are notoriously quick to adapt to repeated exposure to a given positive emotional experience; positive experiences that are diverse may be more resistant to such extinction.
If you rarely experience negative emotions–especially if you try hard to avoid situations that may result in experiencing negative emotions–a bad day can be crushing.
Afraid to launch a new business, especially now? That anxiety is good for you. Ashamed because you failed at something? That embarrassment is good for you–especially when it’s the result of trying something new. Mad at a friend who let you down? That anger is good for you–especially when it’s the result of allowing yourself to be a little vulnerable.
Any time you reach, stretch, push, or risk, the outcome will sometimes be negative. And that’s OK.
For one thing, you’ll never become more than you currently are unless you put yourself in uncomfortable situations.
And you’ll never experience a fuller range of emodiversity unless you let yourself live a fuller life. Because while you can’t control everything that happens in your life, you can always control how you respond.
And the more “emodiverse” you are, the more you’ll be able to cope with and then make the best of what happens.
And in the process, maybe even enjoy greater mental and physical health.