What is happiness? Going back in time, to the Declaration of Independence, we find out that this one refers to inalienable rights, among which are “life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness”. Various philosophers have considered happiness to be one of the highest aims of living and a way of assessing the quality of human action.
In my coaching practice, I bump into this concept of happiness every time I ask my clients why do they want to achieve what they want.
“I want to be better, I want to become better, I want my family to love me, I want my work to be recognized, I want to be an wealthy person, I want to be HAPPY…” These words are on the lips of all of them.
What exactly is happiness? What brings us lasting happiness?
Pleasure is one of the core elements of happiness. What makes an experience to be pleasurable? Barbara Fredrickson and Daniel Kahneman have found some surprising answers to this question.
Through different studies about pleasure, the two scientists found out that:
There are three determinants of people’s overall assessments of pleasure.
– the peak moment of pleasure associated with an event (Imagine that joy you feel as You’re eating and ice-cream) predicts how much pleasure you will associate with the event.
– how you feel at the end of the event also predicts your overall reports of pleasure.
If you are planning a backpacking trip through Europe or a first date, make sure that last day is really pleasurable.
– the length of the pleasurable experience is unrelated to the overall reports of pleasure, a bias called “duration neglect”
Whether the neck massage lasts 20 minutes or one hour, whether a first date lasts one hour or ten, seems to have little sway over our experience of pleasure. what matters is that whether the peak moment and ending are good.
! The same principle for negative experiences. Remembered pain is predicted by peak and end discomfort, but not by its duration (Kahneman, 1999)
Whether we know or not what is happiness, do we really know what makes us happy? Can we reliably predict what will make us happy, and what will bring us despair?
We spend our lives in work on the assumption that the career success will bring lasting joy. We choose graduate schools, careers, vacations, marriage partners based on the sense that one option will bring more happiness than others.
A variety of biases interfere with our attempts to predict the level of our future happiness.
1) Immune neglect – we are resilient in responding to painful setbacks, because of our ‘psychological immune system’ which allows us to rise above the effects of negative experience and trauma. Somehow we find the silver lining, the humour, the potential for growth, insight and positive change in the face of painful setbacks and traumatic experiences. These immune related processes allows to return to satisfying lives in the face of negative experiences.
The problem in predicting happiness is that we fail to consider these processes when estimating the effects of traumatic events like breakups or failures at work. We assume that we will be devastated by them, but in fact we often respond in resilient fashion. As a consequence, we have difficulties predicting our future happiness.
2) Another bias is focalism – we focus too much on the main elements of the significant events, neglecting the fact that the other aspects of our lives will also contribute to our life satisfaction .As we move through life, it is common for us to assume that once one event happens – for example, once we get married, or have children – we will be truly happy. What we forget to consider is that after our wedding, after the arrival of our children, many other events ( for example problems on our job, conflicts with our spouse, or difficulties with our children) will impinge to our happiness.
INVITATION: Live a mindful life, consider all the aspects of your life when assessing your level of happiness. Don’t postpone your happiness and be mindful now, live your dreams and don’t leave them for one day!
We all have difficulties predicting whether we will be happy in the future, as we are more resilient than we think we are and we tend to focus on certain aspects of future events while neglecting other bits that can actually be important in the future.
What I found so far is that most people are happy because they are able to adapt rapidly to life’s circumstances. In wealthy countries, money, age and gender do not seem to affect life satisfaction but relationships with family and friends are important sources of happiness for people throughout the world.
1) Think about 5 things you like about yourself
What would be the purpose of being happy if you, firstly, are not happy with yourself. To be happy in the outside world, means to have a happy relationship with ourselves.
2) Finish the sentence: “My dream is…..” Don’t be afraid to write it down. What would you do if no one is watching or reading?
3) Say to yourself, as many times as you can, that “ IS NORMAL TO BE HAPPY”. Think about those times when you thought that happiness isn’t in the cards for you, or that you don’t deserve it, or that you don’t have what it takes to be happy…so many reasons to find blockages against your own happiness. Yes, Happiness is NORMAL! Go and grab it
4) List 50 things that bring joy to your life right now, repeat the exercise as many times as you feel like to. Some of these things are making you feel alive indeed.
5) What is the best thing that happened to you lately? Don’t be afraid to write about a simple thing, you know, simple things make us feel alive.
On 1st of April we meet up to “LIGHT UP YOUR FEMININE POWER” – If you feel that this event is for you, please do register here: Tickets – Feminine Power
Have a great week!
Elite Vision Coaching
Explore ~ Connect with Others ~ Share your Discoveries