Imagine you are vacationing in Cancun relaxing on the fine white sand gleaming under the bright tropical sun, by the glistening deep blue water and sipping on a margarita. You say to yourself “Life is good!”

But even a vacation in paradise-like Cancun can’t be perfect from minute to minute. You may be annoyed at a slow-moving waiter to take your order, or the air condition in your room that doesn’t work properly, or your kids who continue to bicker at each other. But if you are asked when it’s over, “How was the vacation in Mexico?”, the average person remembers the peak moments and how he or she felt at the end of the trip.

The power of endings has been demonstrated in some remarkable experiments by the Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman. One such study involved people undergoing a colonoscopy, an uncomfortable procedure in which a flexible scope is moved through the colon. While a control group had the standard procedure, half the subjects endured an extra 60 seconds during which the scope was held stationary; movement of the scope is typically the source of the discomfort. It turned out that members of the group that had the somewhat longer procedure with a benign ending found it less unpleasant than the control group, and they were more willing to have a repeat colonoscopy*.

Asking people how happy they are, Kahneman contends, “is very much like asking them about the colonoscopy after it’s over. There’s a lot that escapes them.” However, how things end seems to register with our brain.

Last night things were a bit crazy in my house. I was exhausted after a long day but Jake was still playing downstairs after 9:30 pm. Having to remind him the third time that it was bedtime, I got a bit annoyed. Finally Jake got up from the floor and headed to his room grudgingly, and I retired to bed picking up a book I had been reading. Then I realized that I didn’t want to end the day like this. So I went up to Jake’s room, kissed him goodnight, hugged him and told him that I loved him very much. Jake smiled contently and hugged me even tighter.

Between you and your partner, it is not necessarily toxic to argue or disagree, but at the end of the argument do let him know that even though you disagree, your love for him doesn’t change. Fighting with yelling and character assassination in front of your children is nothing short of child abuse. It can and will scar them emotionally. If that ever happens in your home, you the parents have to apologize to the kids for your serious lack of self-control. More importantly let them witness the peacemaking between you and your spouse by giving each other a hug or saying “I am sorry”. Often times children see their parents fight the ugly fight but are left out from the reconciliation process. Sadly this offers them nothing but a distorted picture of how relationship functions.

A woman I know disapproved her daughter’s choice of a boyfriend. He is a decent guy, but fails to meet her high moral standard. When her daughter decided to marry him, she opted not to attend the wedding. The woman issued this ultimatum to her daughter, “In the future, you and my grandchildren are welcome to my house, but not your husband!” I honestly think that’s the dumbest thing anyone could have done and I seriously doubt that she’ll be able to see her daughter and grandchildren very much.

A good ending should not only lead to a brighter new beginning, but also provide a long-term and more optimistic viewpoint. Let’s say you are on your way to Cancun, and your taxi arrived an hour late, traffic was so bad that you missed your plane. Not a good start, no doubt. On top of that, your plane hit turbulent air, which made you wonder if you would get to your destination in one piece. You might start to believe that your vacation is ruined or even your whole life is ruined. And eventually you landed. At that point, you had the choice of having the best time going forward or allowing a rough start to destroy an enjoyable middle and a memorable ending. If you chose the latter, you were likely to conclude that Cancun was a horrible place and you’d never want to return again.

If people undergoing colonoscopy are more willing to repeat the procedure just because of a benign ending, it says a lot about how much we can improve the outlook of our life by ending each day or chapter of our life on a high note.

*The New Science of Happiness by Claudia Wallis, Time Magazine