I’ve read my fair share of research on happiness, but the book by Prof. Sonja Lyubomirsky was able to offer some new and exciting details.
In a nutshell, it attempts to answer the perennial question of why we can never be completely happy. That is, why certain things, which should make us ecstatic– a new job, more money, finding a soul-mate– don’t quite give us the high we expect when we finally have them.
For one thing, we tend to believe that we can be happy only when certain conditions are met–when we get married, have kids, have a great job, become rich, are healthy, etc. We frequently focus exclusively on the outcome and become so obsessed with reaching our goals, that we miss the life that passes us by. We fail to recognize that sometimes the journey is worth more than the destination.
“Hedonic adaptation” is yet another reason for failing to find internal happiness—we get quickly used to the good fortunes in our lives, which ultimately raises the bar for the next “happy” experience. As a result, we often feel dissatisfied even when something positive happens to us—simply because it couldn’t bring us the same “high” as the previous one.
One of the most complex connections the book explores is between work/ money and happiness. As we tend to adapt quickly, our satisfaction plummets quickly too–we go back to our base level of happiness even after scoring our dream job. The suggested remedies to this are things as “live every day as it’s your last,” stop comparing to others, and attempt to, rather than expect to achieve your goals at all costs.
Relationships are another big topic in the book. The “death” of passion comes about two years after marriage but that’s a normal thing, Prof. Lyubomirsky says.When relationships turn into stable and committed marriages, then people can focus on the things that they enjoy doing, but instead of being alone, they now have someone to share their experiences with. Of course, it doesn’t mean that we should let the sparkles go–and we must work on it.
Few other interesting ideas are that happiness sometimes isn’t about feeling good, but about not feeling bad. In other words, we may be better off by “diminishing negative experiences” (such as decreasing our debt) than by creating positive experiences (buying a new car). Simply put, often “pain is more potent than pleasure.”
Yet another advice is, not surprisingly, to try and spend our money on experiences vs. things.
In the end, while there is no magic formula for finding and sustaining happiness, we must always try to look at life events as realistically as possible. In the long-run, nothing is really that “misery-inducing” or “joy-producing” as we believe it to be. A flare for exaggeration only fuels further “false feelings of dissatisfaction.”
Overall, the book is an interesting read—I would recommend it to all who are in search of their own bliss (which is pretty much every person on earth). It does have lots of research and evidence of how to build a healthier and happier life–a topic, which also never goes out of fashion.