I wrote an article about happiness that was cerebral and inciteful, but I am not sure that it turned out to be what I was feeling. It also gave the illusion that I had it all figured out and under control, which I don’t. Furthermore, consciously thinking about happiness can do a pretty good job of making me unhappy.
My challenge at this time is dealing with the take away of meaningful missions. I still love to cycle and mountain bike of course, but such a large part of the reward is tied up with the mission of training and improving. Finding a way to get back to this forward looking mentality, I think is key. I don’t have an answer to how to do this yet.
Following is a more useful story on happiness:
Understanding the psychology of happiness has been an interest of mine for a long time. Over the years I have been listening to discoveries by brain researchers and psychologists and combining that with my own observations.
Before I get much further, I want to say that a good way to not find happiness is to go on a mission to seek it.
I’ve heard a top psychologist on the subject say that if he is asked which of two people are happier, someone who has won the lottery one year ago and someone who became a quadriplegic one year ago. In answering the question of which one of the two are happier today, the psychologist would say that you haven’t given him any information on which to base his answer.
At the time that I heard this, I believed him academically, but thought that he had overstated his case. I felt that he had been too extreme with his example. Now I believe that his concept might be more true for me than I would have guessed.
Now don’t get me wrong I have had some serious unhappiness in the very recent past, but on an average day, I would say that I am about as happy as before.
Following is an outline of things that are important for happiness and well being. I suspect that none of this is a surprize to anyone reading this.
- Productive projects that bring personal meaning.
- Positive social relationships.
- Being a useful and integral part of the pack/society (this might be something of a combination of the previous two items)
- Having the feeling of control over your own life. (some people like to control other people’s lives. I don’t see how this is helpful. Perhaps that gives a feeling of power and control over their own. I can’t empathise)
- Love (I think that love is the instinctual wiring that makes us care for our young, our mates, our pack. I don’t feel like this view cheapens it. I am a huge fan of love)
- Having enough. If you think that money can’t buy happiness, don’t ask somebody living under a bridge. I did not make that up. Lack of enough resources to fulfill basic needs and give a reasonable amount of choice and control in one’s life can definitely bring unhappiness. However, once the basic needs and ability to control one’s life are met, more money above that does not lead to more happiness. Many of us can take a little comfort in the idea that we are wealthier than certain billionaires, because we have enough… they never will.
- Being satisfied with expectations and self worth. Whether or not we are satisfied is largely based on whether our expectations and self ranking are in flux and if they are in line with reality. I feel that this is a very important concept that I expand on my next post to be named “Expectations are a Bitch!”
- Brain chemistry
Another seemingly odd thing that I have noticed for myself but have never heard mentioned by others is that there seems to be a natural set point for happiness. When I would have a day or two of extreme unhappiness for whatever reason, I would eventually get over it and feel much better later. Conversely, if I would have a major success in my life, with the accompanying euphoria, I find that I pay for it a day or so later. Perhaps I am odd on this one, but it is almost as if we get a daily allowance of happiness that we can use up if we over spend.
Great post, David! I too am interested in the psychology of happiness. And I agree with you when you say a good way to not find happiness is to chase after it. I believe happiness finds you when you’re doing what you love or in the company of good friends & family or when your with your soulmate enjoying a beautiful day together. Happiness can come to us at a moments notice or when we least expect it. We just need to get up each and every day and give it all the best that we can. Oh, and, by the way, I’m happy that you’re my friend! 🙂