I was thinking about this last night as I fastened my seatbelt after getting in a cab.
Until recently, although I always wore a seatbelt in a regular car, I never bothered with it when I was in a taxi.
Maybe because of the “availability bias.” The availability bias is a tendency that causes us to evaluate an event’s probability according to its availability in our memory. However, we might remember something better because it causes more emotion, or because it’s reported in the media, not because it’s very frequent. For example, ask yourself: what kills more Americans–asthma or tornadoes? Turns out that asthma kills eighty times more people than tornadoes.
I’d never heard of anyone being injured in a taxi accident, and of course, I see people taking taxis all the time. Because no incidences of taxi accidents were available in my memory, I assumed that taxi accidents were very rare. (Also, I felt like I was in the hands of a “driving professional” when I was in a taxi.)
But a few weeks ago, at dinner with some friends, it came up in conversation that out of eight people in the room, two people had been in taxi accidents serious enough to put them in the hospital. Zoikes, I realized, these accidents are more common than I thought.
So I vowed to wear my seatbelt in a taxi.
But last night I was feeling blue. I’d had a discouraging day, I had a lot on my mind, I was irritable.
I didn’t tell myself, “How lucky I am to be able to jump into a nice warm cab and go straight home, instead of having to walk in the freezing cold to wait for the subway!” Instead, I collapsed against the seat, feeling listless and sorry for myself.
Fastening the seatbelt seemed like too much effort. I didn’t want to deal with it.
So this is another way that feeling happier can lead a person to act in healthier ways, such as fastening a seatbelt. When you’re feeling unhappy, little efforts can seem overwhelming—or worse, pointless. Making an effort to be happy makes it easier to take a myriad of small steps that bolster happiness.
The day may come when I’ll be very, very, very happy I happened to be wearing a seat belt.