The Antidote

Oliver Burkeman

The Antidote



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The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking celebrates the power of negative thinking. This deliberately provocative book goes up against the many best-selling self-help writers, who claim that positive thinking is a magical cure-all for any obstacle or challenge. Oliver Burkeman, however, suggests that it is the very opposite, namely negative thinking, that really makes the difference. This approach simply combines an optimistic attitude with the acceptance of our negative emotions. When we integrate the positive and the negative in life, we learn to appreciate that the present is a series of moments that we have to try to experience consciously. Adopting this approach makes it much easier to achieve lasting and genuine happiness.

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Analysis and key concepts


We often look for happiness in the wrong places


The relentless pursuit of happiness is actually one of the reasons why people are often unhappy


Let’s look at some examples of positive thinking gurus


The key to happiness resides in our ability to manage uncertainty by ‘letting go and getting into the flow’


Negative capability and the law of opposites are useful tools in the pursuit of happiness




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Reflect on the concept of happiness and the methods we typically use to try to achieve it.
  • Try new methods of achieving happiness that differ from traditional self-help approaches.
  • Discover how negative thinking can also help us achieve happiness.

Oliver Burkeman is an English journalist and writer. He is a contributor to The Guardian, and has written several successful books. His work focuses on the link between productivity and happiness, and include The Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking (2012), Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done (2011), and Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. His books encourage readers to try new techniques to increase productivity simply by accepting their reality. He also writes a column for the Italian magazine, Internazionale, called This Column Will Change Your Life.

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