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Big events don’t mean a significant increase in happiness

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Big events don’t mean a significant increase in happiness

Scott Miker

We all want to be happy.  We have a desire to be relatively stress-free and upbeat.  We don’t want to be miserable every day and in pain from the time we wake until we go to sleep.

But outside of the obvious notion that we want to be happy, we all have different ideas of what happiness actually means.  Some feel it means freedom, some feel it means pleasure and some feel it means healthy. 

Because of this, we all pursue happiness in our own way.  We seek out what we feel will lead to happiness.  But what if that pursuit is to follow something that won’t actually help us become any happier?

Most people look to life events to determine their happiness.  They think about things that happen to them, accomplishments or specific times.  But events only provide short bursts of happiness or unhappiness, not a lasting increase or decrease in happiness.

In Welcome to your brain by Sandra Aamodt, Ph.D and Sam Wang, Ph.D, the authors state, “Even major life events have less lasting influence on happiness than you might guess.  For example, blind people are no less happy than people who can see.  Married people are, on average happier than unmarried people but having children has no overall effect on happiness.  It seems that after a strong transient response to most good or bad events, people’s happiness tends to return toward their individual ‘set point,’ which is mildly positive on average.  This is called adaptation, and it’s the reason that some people keep buying stuff they don’t need: if having something new makes you happy, you have to keep renewing the feeling by buying more stuff because the effect never lasts.”

I really enjoy reading Dr. Wayne Dyer books.  He has a way of explaining life that I really enjoy.  One concept from Dyer is that we can’t go out and find happiness.  Happiness isn’t in something external.

Instead of searching for happiness, we simply have to let go of unhappiness.  I love that concept.  When I am stressed I tend to recall this concept and relax my body and mind.  Letting go of unhappiness leaves behind a calm, content mindset. 

But the desire for more happiness often leads us away from this idea of letting go of unhappiness.  It leads us towards a desire for a jolt of happiness from an event.  This could be a new purchase, a new love, a vacation, a win, etc. 

Relaxation exercises can help to be able to let go.  We can start to physically let go of tension in our muscles and that often leads to a relaxing of the mind as well.  We can then start to live in the present moment and enjoy what is there right now instead of focusing on what is missing. 

Another way to generally increase your happiness set point is to focus on being grateful.  Being grateful helps to realize just how much you already have instead of focusing on what is missing.  We start to appreciate the present moment and everything that we have.

Happiness is something we all deserve.  But if we keep looking for happiness in events we will likely miss the reality that we have to let go of unhappiness and start to take recurring steps that help us relax and appreciate what we have in life.  Doing this can lead to a content life and an increase in your happiness ‘set point’.