Why frequency is more important than intensity

“Happiness or wellbeing, is more strongly associated with the frequency and duration of people’s positive feelings, not with the intensity of those feelings” (Diener 2009). So it is well worth calling to mind some of the small positive occurrences in our lives, rather than waiting for our next ‘theme park’ experience.

I would rather plan a couple of nice weekends away with the family each term, rather than planning one big holiday every two years. The regular weekends feel like it is part of my life, whereas the one big holiday feels like it’s a holiday away from my life. This practice is really trying to build frequency rather than intensity.

Rather than grasping positive emotions too tightly, we are better off to increase the frequency of positive emotions through daily life (Fredrickson 2009). Think ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) – it’s funny how we are so concerned with missing out on something big in our lives, when sometimes we don’t even notice the sunrise, the sand between our toes, the smile of our child, the respect between two friends, the excellence of a colleague etc. In this way, I think our own ‘FOMO’ on the next theme park experience actually leads to us missing out on what we have right now.

Benjamin Franklin once famously said that “happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.” Jim Rohn (2017) puts it another way – “Wherever you are, be there.”

Action- think of two or three small things that you are sincerely grateful for that have happened in the last 24 hours. The challenge is to think about the really little things and you might surprise yourself at how little you need to be grateful.

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