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  • Writer's pictureLauren Hass

Lessons from "The Happiness Lab" Podcast


In her podcast, "The Happiness Lab," Dr. Laurie Santos explores the science of being happy. I wanted to share inspiration from two episodes with you, "Choice Overload" and "The Happiness of Subtraction."


  1. Subtract commitments: The "Yes-Damn" effect and the "No-Yay" effect.

  2. Subtract choices: More choices are paralyzing.

  3. Subtract stuff: Simplify to enjoy!


Subtract Commitments


Are you overscheduled? Do you feel like you can't say no to any request...an upcoming project, a favor, a social invitation? It feels so far off, so your future self will obviously have time and be interested in this commitment, right?


In "The Happiness of Subtraction" episode, I love the part where they talk about the "Yes, damn" effect and then the "No, yay" effect. In the former you say yes to a commitment (event, project, etc.) and then, when the date approaches, you regret that it's on your calendar.


The latter happens when you say no to a commitment, you then put that commitment on your calendar to remind yourself of where you would have had to go or for what you would have had to prepare. When that date approaches, you do a little happy dance -- or a "yay" -- to celebrate that you said no. Saying no has a reward!


The next time you are asked to do something or go somewhere at a point of time in the future, unless you REALLY want to, consider saying no. You can even put it in your calendar so you can celebrate the choice your earlier self made. It's okay, you will still have your friends, you will just also have your time and sanity. Subtract to be happier!



Subtract Choices


Ever look at the menu in a diner? Or at a wall of paint sample colors? So many options, perhaps too many options. We're much happier with a restaurant that only serves pizza, or when an interior decorator give us two or three paint options from which to choose.


The Happiness Lab's "Happiness of Subtraction" episodes shares research by Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College. His research shows that if you are given more choices, you are less happy. When it comes to shopping, "our minds might tell us that finding the best of all the options will feel like an achievement, but that's simply not the case...the more you compare, the more the thing you've chosen suffers. You end up making a good decision, and feeling bad about it.*


It may seem counterintuitive, but whether it's what color couch to buy, which retirement plan to choose, or what gift to buy someone...the more choices, the worse. The pressure to make the perfect choice can be paralyzing. Sometimes we postpone - or never make - the decision, so as not to deal with it.


If this struggle resonates with you, give yourself a break. Try not to put the pressure on yourself to make the absolute best decision, rather try to make one that is good enough, especially if the stakes are low. Subtract to be happier!


Subtract Stuff


This one is my passion. I love helping people declutter their space, knowing that less stuff equals less stress. In fact, if you're new to the Clutter Kicker blog, check out my first post ever (August 2020) about all the ways decluttering boosts your happiness.


Listening to The Happiness Lab's "Choice Overload" episode introduced me to a concrete example of this...have you heard of the Project 333 Challenge? Founder Courtney Carver reflects on her experience with it. "I learned that my clothes and my closet were stressful and sent me into the day feeling a bit frazzled, and it was just so relieving for me. I felt so good that I didn't have to look at all of my bad purchase decisions, the clothes that didn't fit me, the clothes I didn't enjoy or like, the clothes with tags still hanging." Project 333 led Carver to so many positive outcomes...it has improved her mental health, bank account, and even physical health. Subtract to be happier!


In summary, subtracting commitments, choices and stuff can make you happier, lower your stress level and improve your mental health. If you struggle with these things, Clutter Kicker can help!

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