The Happiness Connection  

Always end with a bang

Let’s talk colonoscopies!

I’ll bet that isn’t the opening sentence you were expecting to see on a column called The Happiness Connection.

Recently, I stumbled on research conducted in 1996 by Donald Redelmeier, and Daniel Kahneman. They were interested in how memories of past medical procedures influenced whether a person would choose to have the procedure done again.

Colonoscopies and mammograms are just two examples of tests that can help detect cancers and other health problems. Neither would be described as enjoyable.

Finding ways to help these procedures to be remembered in a positive light might help them to be used more and therefore detect more health problems at an earlier stage.

That was the purpose of this study, but the findings have implications that you can use in many aspects of your life that have nothing to do with colonoscopies.

Let me start by describing how the study was conducted.

A group of patients requiring colonoscopies were divided into two groups. All the participants received the same procedure. Their self-assessed pain levels were recorded every 60 seconds.

When the data was looked at later, both groups had similar levels of pain at similar times during the procedure.

The difference between the groups happened when the colonoscopy was over.

The procedure was completed as normal for the first group and then they were given time to recover from the anesthetic. Just before they went home, the participants were asked to fill out a written questionnaire.

When the procedure was completed for the members of the second group, rather than being sent to a place to recover, they remained where they were for an additional few minutes.

During this time, the tip of the colonoscope was left in place, although not moved.

When these extra minutes were up, the instrument was removed and like the first group they were given time to recover before being asked to complete a questionnaire.

Which group would you have preferred to be in?

Before reading the findings, I would have chosen the first group. It makes sense that the shorter the procedure, the better the experience. I discovered that is not necessarily the case.

The second group had to assess their pain levels during the extra few minutes added to the end of their procedure. They consistently showed low pain levels, as the colonoscope was not being moved.

So far there is nothing remarkable from the data. Just remember that everyone had similar levels of pain at similar points during the procedure, regardless of what group they were in.

It was the questionnaire that uncovered some very interesting findings.

The people in the first group who had the shorter procedure with the more painful ending, remembered their experience as being painful.

The group that had a less painful ending to the colonoscopy, remembered it as not hurting as much.

These findings led to the formation of the Peak-end Rule.

When you recall an experience, the things you remember most are the highest peaks of pleasure or pain, and the end.

If you want to create an experience that is remembered favourably, make sure you pay attention to how it ends. Rather than letting it fizzle out, end with a bang.

Perhaps this is why every day at Disneyland ends with a magnificent fireworks display. It doesn’t matter how whiney the kids got, or how many lines you stood in, the fireworks are guaranteed to send you on your way with great memories.

You can take advantage of this knowledge, especially as you enter the season of staff parties, family gatherings, customer appreciation experiences and winter vacations.

It doesn’t matter as much how something starts, it is the ending that counts.

If you are organizing a concert, put the person who will provide the memory you want the audience to retain at the end. If you are a school, this may not be your best singers, it may be the gorgeous kindergarten class.

If you are planning any type of gathering, put your energy into the ending. This may mean putting the moving, thank you champagne toast at the end, rather than near the beginning. If there is some dry business to get through, do that at the start.

If you are out with tired youngsters and things aren’t going well, don’t worry about it. Your memories don’t have to be ruined by these things. Think of something you can do at the end of your time together that makes everyone smile and feel good.

Build peaks rather than trying to maintain a consistent level of fun.

I think this part of the rule is more applicable to longer events like a 10-day holiday in Hawaii.

Rather than spreading excursions and day trips evenly throughout your vacation, look to add peaks. Plan one or two days that will be spectacular among many days that are good.

If you can only afford to upgrade your plane tickets for one direction of your holiday, which should you choose? The homeward travel will have a greater impression on your recall of the experience.

I love learning about the way the human mind works. Store this information away for the next time you are planning a party or get together, and remember it is all about the ending.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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