Happiness is the big buzz at the moment. It seems that everybody wants to be happy, everybody has a theory on happiness and how we can achieve it and everybody has a different definition of what happiness is.
So take a moment and think about what this means to you and what it would take for you to achieve real happiness………..Would it be landing your dream job? Finding that perfect life partner? Owning your dream house or new car? Being more successful or having no more money worries?
I wonder how many of us have our focus on the external factors in our lives? Thinking these things would bring us that elusive holy grail of true happiness only to find that after a short while that we seem to dip back to feeling not as happy as we could/should/thought be would?
The ‘hedonic’ perspective defines “well-being or happiness as being fundamentally about maximising pleasure and avoiding or minimising pain‘.
The thing is that we humans are really good at “hedonic adaptation’ and as individuals it’s been shown that we adapt quickly to changes in lifestyles and return to our baseline levels of happiness. So that new car, new house, (yes, even a lottery win!) are great at first but after a while……….The Hedonic Treadmill (also known as hedonic adaptation) is a theory that proposes that people return to their own level of happiness (happiness set point) , regardless of what happens to them.
The Happiness Set Point refers to the (apparently) genetically determined predisposition for happiness and psychologists feel that this is responsible for about 50% of the differences relating to your happiness.
In her book “The How of Happiness” Sonja Lyubomirsky says that this very significant 50% is where you can directly have an impact, with your actions, thoughts and attitudes accounting for 40% of your happiness and 10% from external circumstances/environment.
Martin Seligman tells us:
“The very good news is there is quite a number of internal circumstances (…) under your voluntary control. If you decide to change them (none of these changes come without real effort), your level of happiness is likely to increase lastingly.”
What is becoming more and more apparent is that it’s not through focusing on the external materialistic world, where we are encouraged to digests as consumers, that we attain happiness. Increasingly there seems to be a growing body of evidence drawing attention to the fact that actually high materialism is linked to low well-being and overall life satisfaction.
The hedonic perspective differs from the ‘eudiamonic’ perspective, where individuals live in accordance with their ‘true self’. This perspective places focus on meaning in life and the extent to which a person fully integrates this into his or her life – the “good life”.
Increasingly positive psychologists are looking at how we can all experience the “good life” as opposed to the “goods life”.
The “good life”, is one where we live well together and where consideration is given by us to other living humans, our future generations, other species and our environment. When people have these shared values, and are mindful of their actions and the impact these have, they tend to have more happiness and all that this brings. One of the ways that has been identified to move forwards in this area, and progress, is to increase well-being through the use of meditation as a mechanism of mindfulness.
Perhaps a focus on more instrinsic values might be helpful and could help us to be more mindful of what we have in our lives rather than being distracted by what we think we are lacking externally?
Finally, let us take guidance from, possibly, one of the first positive psychologists:
“The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.”– Confucius
If you’d like to know more about positive psychology and how I can help support your journey towards becoming simplyhappy, then please get in touch.