10. Be empathetic and grateful
Paterson points out that in clinical psychology, “tragedy and the misfortune of others can awaken our compassion for people, but also our appreciation of our own good fortune and its temporary nature.” He adds that the uncomfortable emotions have not been given their due. “It is through them that we attain many of our greatest traits and skills: empathy, compassion, altruism, trust.”
And that applies to both real-life situations and fiction: Watching a movie about a tragedy can actually make us happier. Researchers studied college students and found that comedies, action flicks and tragedies all fix mood in the short term. However, tragedies appear to do something more: By showing bad things happening to someone else, they channel our attention to our own good fortune.
We can cultivate a sense of gratitude by consciously reminding ourselves of the positives in our own lives, Paterson adds. “We can also engage in mindfulness exercises to focus our attention on the world of the present, pulling back from our regrets about the past and our fears of a catastrophic future.”