Science has discovered how you can create lasting happiness!

Science has discovered how you can create lasting happiness!

by Heidi Grant Halvorson from Fulfillment Daily

The Challenge: We wonder why our happiness wears off (e.g. after we buy our first new car) and doesn’t last.

The Science: No matter how happy something makes us, we drift back to where we started (called “hedonic adaptation”). But it is possible to make happiness last!

The Solution: Using these simple two tools, you can gain and sustain happiness in your life!

No matter how miserable you are feeling at the moment, if you look back, there have surely been events in your life that have made you happy.  Maybe the time you bought your first car, or the time you received that long-desired promotion.  Or the time you lost fifteen pounds and were able to get back into your favorite jeans without cutting off your circulation.  When good things happen, we feel positive emotions – like excitement, relief, pride, and of course, happiness.  These feelings are essential for our well-being.

But the problem is, happiness doesn’t usually last.  The excitement of that first car purchase wears off, the thrill of the promotion gives way to the anxiety of handling the responsibilities that came with it.  Sure, you think, it’s nice to be a size 8 again.  But it would be really great to be a size 6…

Psychologists call this phenomenon hedonic adaptation – the idea is that no matter how good something makes us feel (or, for the record, how bad), most of the time we drift back to where we started, emotionally-speaking. One often-cited study famously showed that despite their initial euphoria, lottery winners were no happier than non-winners eighteen months later.  The same tendency to return to “baseline” has been shown to occur after marriage, voluntary job changes, and promotions – the kinds of things we usually expect to change our happiness and well-being for the better in a permanent way.

Why can’t we make the happiness last? Psychologists (and renown happiness experts) Kennon Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky argue in a recent paper that our hedonic adaption occurs for two reasons.

When a positive change first occurs (say, you move into a great new house), there are usually lots of positive events happening as a result.  You get to break in that new six-burner range, take a long bath in your first soaking tub, and appreciate the roominess of your new garage. But over time, there are fewer positive events to experience, because you get used to all the home’s features, and after a while you just don’t notice them anymore.  With fewer positive events, and thus fewer positive emotions (excitement, pride, happiness), your newfound well-being can’t be sustained.

The second reason happiness fades is that even when positive events continue – if, for instance, your fitness and healthy eating habits leave you looking great, and this results in lots of new opportunities for romance on a regular basis –  the change begins to simply be seen as the “new normal.”  And as a result, your aspiration level shifts – you feel like you need to look even better.  Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has referred to this process as a kind of “satisfaction treadmill.” Because we continuously shift our standards upward once we’ve reached them, we’ve got to keep running in order to feel satisfied again.

But don’t despair – it is possible to make happiness last, by slowing the adaptation process, or even halting it all together.  Sheldon and Lyubomirsky found in a recent study that two anti-adaptation tools were effective in sustaining gains in happiness over time:  variety and appreciation

…keep reading the full & original article HERE