Feeling good? Might be a good time to scrub the toilet.
New research from Stanford University finds that we are more likely to face our most dreaded tasks when we're in a good mood. When we're feeling down or grumpy, we opt to do more pleasant things, like walk the dog or read a book.
"These findings clarify how emotions shape behavior and may explain how humans trade off short-term happiness for long-term welfare," explained Stanford psychology professor James Gross in a press release. "Overcoming such trade-offs might be critical for our personal well-being and our survival as a species."
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Gross and his colleagues gleaned their data from a specially built app that surveyed the moods and activities of more than 60,000 people over an average of 27 days.
The responses showed that people tend to instinctively leverage their good moods to be productive and work on challenges. Gross calls this "hedonic flexibility." When you're happy, in other words, you're more open to drudgery, or at least getting stuff done.
Gross argues that information translates into good strategy. He and his team want to build out the app they used in the study and convert it into a tool for people to help manage their daily to-do lists. For example, if you're not a morning person, the early hours may not be the best time to start your taxes.
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In the long run, Gross says, understanding the best times to get things done while also fitting in fun activities is an important skill to long-term satisfaction.
"It could well be that those who are best able to achieve a healthy balance between the pleasurable and unpleasant are more likely to lead happier, more productive lives," he said.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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