30 Aug Happiness is…not always what it seems
This week, for your reading pleasure, we bring you another guest submission from a member of our happiness community as well as a book review, from our very own Dr. Happy. We hope you enjoy today’s thoughts and musings and we hope you’ll continue to send us ideas and questions, as well as contribute to our adventures on Facebook and Twitter!
Happiness is perception – from Adam van Apeldoorn
Research in positive psychology has demonstrated that happy people tend to experience a different subjective world from those who are unhappy, even though their objective world may be similar. For instance, people often tend to assume that if I find this situation upsetting, then other people must also find it upsetting. However the reality is that two different people will often experience the same situation in two completely different ways. For one person, it is a source of disappointment and frustration. For another, it is a source of happiness and fulfilment.
Another way to think about this might be to visualize some employees at your place of work. No doubt we can all think of the employee who finds work miserable, but at the same time we can usually think of other employees in the same workplace who tend to be very happy.
On a broader level, consider the focus placed upon the acquisition of money and material goods in contemporary society. Research by Ed Diener in the US has demonstrated that once people’s basic needs for food, clothing and shelter have been met, additional wealth tends to correlate only weakly to additional levels of happiness. Studies of lottery winners indicate that although many experience a temporary high after winning the cash, many also tend to revert back to their existing happiness levels within a few months. In such cases, it was found that what contributes most towards people’s happiness levels was the subjective control they exerted over their reality and not so much what the reality was per se, such as how much money they had or how horrible their place of work happened to be.
The lesson for the wise is clear. That it’s not what you have, but how you perceive what you have which is important.