Main content

Six ways that negativity can make you happy

To achieve any major life goal, conventional wisdom tells us we must think positively. Picture yourself delivering the perfect presentation and it shall be so; envisage the ideal job interview and it will go well; imagine yourself sprinting first across the finish line and you will romp home as champion. While these strategies sound compelling, they have been shown to backfire.

In the mini-series The Power of Negative Thinking, psychology writer Oliver Burkeman has been exploring the virtues of negativity and shows how it can be a surprisingly powerful route to joy, success and satisfaction.

1. Stop thinking positively. It doesn't work and will frequently backfire, badly.

Positive thinking doesn’t work

Psychology writer Oliver Burkeman explores how thinking positively will backfire.

2. Pessimism = success. You will be more successful when you focus on the reasons you're likely to fail.

Why pessimism = success

People are often more successful when they focus on the reasons they are likely to fail.

3. Give up hoping. Hoping for the best often just gets in the way. Embrace feelings of hopelessness to motivate yourself.

Give up hoping

Oliver Burkeman talks about the word 'hope' and its use in our everyday language.

4. Don't look to external sources to improve your overall happiness. In the long-run, winning the lottery won't make you any happier.

Your happiness has nothing to do with external circumstances

Do we look for it happiness in the wrong places?

5. Don't try and make something fun. Forced fun is no fun whatsoever.

Don't try and make something fun

Oliver Burkeman is a firm believer that forced fun is no fun.

6. Confronting death can give you a new meaning in life. There is a path to happiness through thinking more about your own, and your loved ones', mortality.

Confronting death can give you a new meaning

Many of us see death as the most negative of all experiences.

Listen to psychology writer Oliver Burkeman's mini-series The Power of Negative Thinking.

More from Radio 4 in Four...