The Pursuit of Happiness (I)


Who could honestly say they are not pursing happiness?  I think none would.  Everything we do relates to creating happiness; from shopping for the best of everything to ingesting the best foods.  However all of those actions can only appease but a moment and soon be replaced by another craving for a better watch, pants, ring, mobile phone, movie, etc.  There is no end to the things we want in hope to quench the thirst for happiness only that we do not realize that happiness is really what we are after and not the things we own.

Happiness depends, as Nature shows, less on exterior things than most suppose – William Cowper.

A research on happiness demonstrates that the statement above is true.  Until I read the book “Happy for No Reason” (in which the author reported statistics to support this point) and did a little digging on my own, I have not given much thought to this.  Perhaps I have taken for granted what truly being happy means.

I reproduce here the statistics as reported in “Happy for No Reason”:

  • Americans’ personal income has increased more than two and a half times over the past fifty years but their happiness level has remained the same.
  • Nearly 40 percent of the people on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans are less happy than the average American.
  • Once personal wealth exceeds $12,000 a year, more money produces virtually no increase in happiness.

I would suppose the statistics here would not have been very different elsewhere.  It is not too difficult to call to mind a wealthy friend or two who are not too happy with their lives no matter how much money they have.  They then go on to an acquisition spree for higher status, education, more and better branded stuff, bigger and flashier cars, more attention, love, respect, etc. but still find happiness elusive.

Interestingly people who suffer from depression are not necessarily those who are destitute but also from the wealthiest.  There are probably more people in the lower rungs of society who are inertly happier than those in the higher social class; at least they have something to aim and hope for.  It is when you have everything and still cannot find happiness, that must be the most painful.

In the research report Happiness is a stochastic phenomenon by  David Lykken and Auke Tellegen  published by American Psychological Society in 1996, it is said that social economic status accounted less than 3% in the variance in general well-being.  (To read the report, go to http://cogprints.org/767/0/167.pdf.)

Our happiness set point may be inherently encoded in our genes.  However, it is possible to reset to a higher level by our experiences and consistent application of positive emotions.

“Dysfunctional behaviour exacerbates depression, whereas the things happy people do enhance their happiness.”

You may also want to watch this video about happiness set point:

Intense happiness is an emotion that fluctuates according to moods and events (winning a contest, getting promoted, etc.) while to be truly happy is the high set level of contentment and peace to which we fall back regardless of our emotions over both good and bad experiences of our lives.

There is no arguing of the fact that we all have moods – the causal effects of events happening around us – but the duration of the positive or negative impact may be prolonged by concentrated and repeated thoughts that determines the level of happiness or unhappiness.  Therefore the ability to self-regulate thoughts would help to improve the happiness set point in the long run.

Since we could reset our happiness set points, there is no excuse to remain unhappy.  All you need is to find the key to unlock the blockage.  Have your found yours?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s