Saturday, February 6, 2016

Happiness, Must We Eventually Fall Back to Where We Started?

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I would follow up on how to move past the happiness set point. Set-point theories about happiness suggest that after upturns or downturns in happiness, we return to our baseline.  This baseline, thought to result from hereditary and habituation factors, is referred to as the happiness set point.  The findings from some happiness studies support this idea of a set point, firming up convictions that we are stuck with what we have when it comes to happiness.  But, not so fast here.

First, not all of us return to this set-point.  Some stay sad and some stay happier.  Some people do lose their happiness for their marriage or what they do in life and go looking for it elsewhere.  For others, happiness gets better and stays better.

Certainly it is easier to feel happy when everything seems to be going right, when what we like is new and all around us.  Excitement and happiness are like low hanging fruit, easily grabbed, easily held on to.  But what about when this emotional lottery does not work in our favor?  Must we all fall back to our setpoint, or even drop below it?

No, we need not become these predicted victims of negative circumstance, set point theory, or habituation.  When the slope for keeping happiness is steep, we need to know how to counterbalance our thoughts and emotions so that we don't slide backwards. Our mindset intensifies reassurance, gratitude, awe, savoring, appreciation, inspiration, kindness, and compassion to help us hold our ground on happiness.

A likely reason why so many  of us do fall back to baseline is that we have not yet learned how to do otherwise.  It's not that we can't make happiness last, it's that we are not being taught how to. Hopefully, through improvements in emotional education, we will acquire these important life skills.

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