What is going to make you happy?
Happiness, in my opinion, is the best state of mind to be within. So why do we waste countless hours thinking the glass is half empty? We always take for granted the time we have to obtain significant milestones. For example delaying that conversation with an elderly family member, because they tend to be slower and long winded. The idea of purposefully surrendering valuable time to meaningful fillers is insane. I’m a health care worker that concentrates my efforts in pulmonary rehabilitation. The will to survive is amazing, and our body is an incredible machine that is full of checks and balances. We are built to be social creatures and thrive when we have a declared purpose!!! Our mind is powerful and is constantly trying to obtain a baseline of happiness.
I have cared for patients that have lost everything. Yes, right after the accidents they are depressed. I’ve seen rehab patients who are full of happiness. I have always wondered how can one be happy after losing everything. Michael Eysenck, a British psychologist, called this Hedonic adaptation. Hedonic adaptation is a process or mechanism that reduces the affective impact of emotional events. This concept states that there is a happiness “set point,” whereby humans maintain a constant level of happiness throughout their lives, despite events that occur in their environment. The process of hedonic adaptation is often conceptualized as a treadmill since one must continually work to maintain some degree of happiness. Others imagine hedonic adaptation as functioning similarly to a thermostat (a negative feedback system) that works to support an individual’s happiness set point. One of the main concerns of positive psychology is determining how to maintain or raise one’s happiness set point, and further, what kind of practices lead to lasting happiness.
Earlier I mentioned that we are programmed to seek happiness. So, for example, we sometimes set arbitrary goals like buying the latest and greatest or keeping up with the Jones. We think that we are going to be happier after obtaining our goal. Yes, initially we are happy, we are hooked like an addict chasing the first high. Over time our $900 I-phone loses its shine, and we are no longer glad that our car is newer than Mr. Jones. The theory identifies that we can never maintain the initial spike of happiness over a long duration of time when it involves obtaining material items. You tend to keep a higher level of happiness for extended periods of time when we spend money on meaningful experiences like going on trips. So the next time you hear about a billionaire speaking about his or her obligation to ending poverty think about the Hedonic treadmill and our constant pursuit of happiness.