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Article Title: Should writers only write what they know? What I learned from my research


Article Summary

This article highlights how positive exercises like – expressing gratitude, performing acts of kindness for others, or spending time savouring the moment – that are meant to promote happiness sometimes end up eliciting negative emotions or reducing a sense of connectedness, competence, or control. Expressing gratitude can engulf us with guilt, embarrassment or debt. Over-generosity may promote feelings of resentment, frustration, or anger.  Further, the response of the recipient may also give rise to negative thoughts or behaviours that contribute to unhappiness. Not just that, the positive activities may also have harmful effects on the people around us. Also, merely witnessing other people being the targets of kindness may invoke negative social comparisons.

Furthermore, gratitude expressions may not be received positively in all contexts. So, why do these seemingly positive activities have negative consequences? It may be because certain practices are meant to produce unpleasant feelings for a short term in order to attain future rewards. Gratitude can provide enough positive emotion to motivate us to approach our goals and negative emotion for us to recognize the need to approach our goals.  Future research may indeed find that small, brief “backfiring” effects are necessary for positive practices to produce gains in well-being in the long run. We need to understand that in the long run, positive activities do ensure happiness and selecting positive activities that fit best with us as individuals—with our personality, interests, and values—will maximize the chances that such efforts catalyze well-being rather than backfire.

Article Link: Click here to read the full article


Words to learn from this Article:

Poignant: evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret

Benefactor: a person who gives money or other help to a person or cause

Reciprocate: respond to (a gesture or action) by making a corresponding one

Paradoxically: in a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory way

Resentment: bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly

Patronize: treat with an apparent kindness which betrays a feeling of superiority

Deleterious: causing harm or damage

Inadvertent: not resulting from or achieved through deliberate planning; unintentional

Engender: cause or give rise to (a feeling, situation, or condition)

Medley: a varied mixture of people or things

Redeem: compensate for the faults or bad aspects of

Empirical: based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic

Boomerang: (of a plan or action) recoil on the originator; backfire

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Catalyze: cause (an action or process) to begin


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