Could Be Worse

Could Be Worse, a.k.a. “downward hedonic contrast,” is a technique that makes you happier by readjusting your brain’s mental baseline. Our life satisfaction is based largely on our expectations. An investment banker can be legitimately depressed over a smaller-than-expected salary that would, to a migrant worker, seem like a fortune.

By identifying how much worse your life could be you gain a renewed sense of gratitude for just how lucky you are. You step off the treadmill of never-ending desire and start to appreciate all that you already have.


Start by identifying a few times in your life when you were lucky or were helped by others. What could have gone wrong? What misfortunes could have happened that didn’t? What opportunities could not have materialized?

Then write a short description of what your life would be like if you hadn’t been so fortunate. What pleasures and sources of joy would you not have? What hardships would you have to deal with?


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