What is the prescription for optimal living? The burgeoning field of positive psychology appears to have many of the answers: We should be kind and caring to others, forgiving of transgressions, gracious and compassionate in our daily lives, and upbeat and optimistic about the future. Following this simple plan should keep us happy and healthy.
But as with most things, it turns out that the answer might not be that simple. What’s good may not always be good, and what’s bad may not always be bad. Being kind and caring is a good thing—as long as the person you are kind and caring towards deserves your kindness. Being forgiving may produce contentment—except when the forgiver has no plans to make amends. Being optimistic about the future may keep your spirits up and help you feel happy—unless you are a gambler who believes the next bet will be the big one.