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Never Mind the Economy, sort the Niggles

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Little things can really ruin our day. Late buses, queues in petrol stations, rude cashiers, glowering colleagues can all contribute to a sense that things are not going well. Micro-stressors can wipe the smiles off our faces.

The reverse is also true - little things can really make our day. No matter how much the economy is wrecking our finances and dragging us into a torpor, a smile from a neighbour in the street, a pleasant exchange in the lift, or an unexpected positive comment or word of thanks can send us to the edge of euphoria.

It's very odd. Life isn't what happens as you're making plans - it's the little, everyday things that sit in our memories. All life is appreciated afterwards.

Successful businesses know all about this. They know how we make up our minds about their products. They focus on little details that make a big difference. The best employ people who are likeable because we're more likely to forgive people wrongdoing if we like them. Call centres employ staff with particular accents since this will have an impact on how we interpret the whole company. We trust Scottish accents and love the Irish lilt.

Governments are not shy either when it comes to dealing with the little things that bother us. Witness the recent move to give local authorities cash to provide weekly bin collections. The idea will have emerged from focus groups where participants will have been asked about what really bothers them.

The big things won't have jumped to mind: wrecked services, impending cuts, massive staff reductions.

No, it will have been bin collections. We used to have them and we miss them the focus-groupers will have said. Pretty please bring them back.

Now, although local government as we know it is being torn limb from limb, we needn't worry because we won't have to put up with all those nasty smells in the summer any more. Life will be good.

And here's one for road users. What bothers you the most about driving these days? Again, it won't be the tolls on the M6, the congestion on the M25, the soaring petrol prices - all matters that most of us believe are beyond our control. Nope, it's the speed limit.

Never mind that congested roads where people are encouraged to drive at 80 mph (so those who routinely drive above the speed limit will now go even faster) will become even more dangerous. Worry not about all the evidence that suggested a strong and scary relationship between speed and death.

No, if it bothers you that much, then please allow us to give you permission to drive faster.

Ah, that feels better. Life is good again.

One mustn't be cynical. In bad times, we do need something to feel good about. It's obviously bad timing that our armed forces are being cut on a day when the government's putting money into bins. But that aside, there's a lot to be said for our leaders doing things that will make us happy.

And there are many other things to keep the masses joyful: wall-to-wall X factor, the late hot summer, Christmas and the possibility that the Euro won't crash and we won't all sink into an economic depression. And you can still get a meal for two for £10 from good old M&S.

We can do our bit too. We can tidy up our front lawn and smile at our neighbours - it really cheers them up. We can keep our cool when idiots cut us up in busy traffic and reflect that once we were wild and dangerous. We can make it our business to do little things every day to make others' lives better.

It would really help if the government did more of the same. Ministers could smile more in combative interviews so that if viewers are not listening to the words, at least they'll be able to talk about how happy our leaders seem. They could ask after the health of the likes of Mr Humphrys or Mr Paxman on air. That would be nice, wouldn't it. Those nice ministers - really decent people.

It would all help to put to one side, out of sight and out of mind, the big things that we don't have time to think about anyway: the absence of a Plan B, the structural deficit, the rising demand for health care, the need for pension reform, the challenge of worklessness, the lack of growth, the latest in a long line of health service reforms, or the fear for the future of youth.

Never mind all that weighing us down.

Don't worry. Be happy. We're all in this together.