Science has secret to making happiness last longer

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Brass, May 14, 2012.

  1. Brass


    Count and re-count blessings: study

    Although finding happiness might sometimes feel like the search for the Holy Grail, researchers say it's not as elusive as many presume. The real challenge, they say, is maintaining the emotion once we find it.

    In a process known as "hedonic adaptation," we gradually adjust to positive changes - say, a new romance or job pro-motion - with the emotional high abating as our new circumstances become the norm.

    We then seek out new and improved sources of fulfilment, and in doing so, fail to get the most out of the original event, researchers say.

    Researchers have identified two ways in which this cycle can be delayed - and thus the secret to longer-lasting happiness.

    In a 12-week study of nearly 500 adults, hedonic adaptation was prevented when people showed continued appreciation of the benefits of the change that first made them happy and continued to derive a variety of experiences related to that original event. For example, after losing weight, these continuing experiences could include the joy of fitting into smaller clothes, receiving positive social attention, having greater stamina, feeling emboldened to run a marathon, testing the dating scene or taking dance lessons.

    "It's really about getting the most out of what you have before moving on to the next thing," says lead author Ken-non Sheldon, professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri. "Otherwise, [the pursuit of happiness] can become like an addiction, where we're always looking for the next hit."

    After Michael Jackson's Thriller became the best-selling album of all time, the singer reportedly claimed he wouldn't be satisfied unless his next musical effort sold twice as much. Similarly, Sheldon says people who are initially euphoric over a new relation-ship or career opportunity can later find themselves wondering if they can do better.

    To test ways of stalling this process, a study was conducted in three waves, with well-being measurements captured at each.

    Six weeks after induction, participants were asked to recount a positive experience they'd had since completing the first questionnaire, and the effect it had on their happiness. After another six weeks, they were reminded of that positive change and asked about the extent to which they still appreciated it, enjoyed new opportunities because of it or aspired to better things.

    As predicted, being less mindful and less appreciative of the happiness-inducing event, and aspiring for more, saw participants' well-being return to baseline levels. But for those who continued to savour, appreciate and take advantage of that which first brought them happiness, hedonic adaptation was postponed.

    "Whatever the change is, whether a new car or new boy-friend, if you want the boost to last, you have to keep appreciating it and using it to keep bringing you varied new experiences," he explains. "Other-wise, after a while, that new car or new boyfriend just becomes part of the woodwork."

    He isn't advocating that people shouldn't seek to improve their lives. Sheldon simply argues that the "quest for more" must not come at the expense of opportunities for happiness available in the moment.

    The study appears in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

    © Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
  2. KastyG


    happiness = 100BIL IPO @28.

    does it get any better?