To turn an obstacle to one's advantage is a great step towards victory.

~ French Proverb ~

Contrasts For A Happier Life

July 24th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 9 secs

Rainy days are good for you too.

Rainy days are good for you too.

Apart from the big picture issues that underpin happiness, there are a host of little things that can make an appreciable difference. Like contrast.

If you are into taking photos then you’ll know a thing or two about contrast. It’s important to either strike a balance, or go all the way to making the subject stand out. When it comes to turning a picture into something memorable, contrast packs a punch.

That’s true in life too. We don’t just appreciate contrast we thrive on it. In fact, a life lacking in contrast can be more than boring. It has the potential to drive us crazy.

Over the years, various experiments involving the removal of sensory stimulation have been undertaken to witness what happens when we are sensorially deprived for long periods. The results, it turns out, aren’t pretty.

Effectively, a lack of sensation starves the brain to the extent that we lose grip on reality (which is why the unscrupulous have used it as a weapon of torment and torture). Sameness or a lack of input results in disquiet, delirium, and depression.

That’s why contrast matters so much. Sensory input relies on comparison (loud against soft, bright versus dull, and textured as opposed to smooth). These contrasts stimulate our brain and the right amount adds excitement to life. Pleasure thrives on variety.

We innately know that a lack of contrast is bad because we associate it with stress and boredom. Sayings like:

  • “All work and no play”
  • “A change is as good as a holiday” and
  • “Variety is the spice of life”

…point to the our need to have sufficient stimulation to feel comfortable.

Psychologists refer to this mental comfort zone as stasis, where (like Goldilocks) we need not too much and not too little, but just the right amount. Of course, this kind of mildly happy feeling requires more or less going on, depending on our frame of mind.

Most folk don’t really appreciate a 41 gun salute, the TV on full volume, and their neighbor abusing their trombone at bedtime, simply because they are easing into a state where “less is best” (although that depends more on the individual than the situation, doesn’t it?).

The take home message is we all need enough contrast in our daily life to make it exciting and challenging without it becoming overwhelming. Routines, for all their benefits, need to be offset with new ideas, difference, and… a cat coughing up hairballs (Sorry, that’s what my cat Scallywag just decided to do. Thanks very much!).

Tweaking our level of stimulus helps us feel more comfortable rather than making us deep down happy. Yet, they deserve consideration. Think about your daily life and weigh it up for yourself. Does it offer the right amount of contrast? Or, does it lack enough blush (or perhaps too much)? Thanks to Scallywag’s gagging and heaving, I suspect mine just got a bit too excessive. Especially as we have a “whoever sees, fixes” rule, meaning I have to clean it up!

Not Happy, Sad

Revenge Is Sweet And Sour

Happy Examples Worth Keeping


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