Happiness is All (Mostly) in Your Head

There is a blog I have been following, called the Happsters. It’s about happiness. Check it out.

There is happiness and then there are things that make you happy (or unhappy).
Most people are chasing the things that make them happy, and that’s perfectly okay … not sayin’ you should stop. Here’s the rub.

There’s been a lot of research on happiness. Researchers called it “Subjective Well-Being.”  What have they concluded?

1.    Every person has a baseline level of happiness that does not change much over time.
2.    Stuff bumps us to a higher level of happiness or drops us to a lower level for a while.
3.    We return to our baseline pretty darn quick, usually in less than six months.

“Whoa,” you say. “You mean if I win the lottery, I’ll only be happy for six months?”

That’s what the research says. For awhile, you will be elated, walking on air, smiling, nothing will bother you e.t.c… e.t.c. This is an artificial state resulting from feel-good chemicals such as endorphins. You are high, like on a drug.

In about six months, you will return to thinking and feeling pretty much like you did before. You won’t have financial worries but you will worry about something else. (What if it rains when I am in Hawaii next week?)

The same is true of a sad event such as a friend dying. For a while, you will be grieving almost constantly and this lowers your happiness level. You won’t be done grieving in six months — that could take years.

You will, however, be smiling again, letting yourself have fun, enjoying some things you enjoyed before. You will be back at your baseline, even though you’re still grieving. It may not feel like your baseline, because there are still those moments when the grief takes over.

Here is a graph to make this sound more scientific.
Happiness Graph

Can you raise your baseline. Can you get that 3 up to a 4 or 5?
I believe you can.

Less than Helpful Advice

Do the things that make you happy. That’s the external part.

Yet, none of these will change your baseline. That’s in your head. Every day, remind yourself that how you feel about your life is a choice. If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it right now, accept it: a bad job, too little money, no partner right now. Say everyday — this is only for now.

Try this mantra: (take N-times daily for life where N = frequency of negative thoughts)

“At this moment, there are things I like about my life and things I don’t. Either of these is temporary. I can smile in a storm and frown in the sunshine. It’s up to me. I chose how I feel today.”

I ain’t sayin’ this is easy. I’m sayin’ it’s how you get happier.

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About almondhead

I am a mental health counselor in private practice. One of the focuses of my practice is helping people with fear, anxiety and their ugly stepsister, depression. I became a counselor after a long career in the technology world, so naturally, I think of the brain as an engineering problem. It can help to understand something about how the brain works. I decided to start this blog as a way to help other people learn about fear, anxiety and relationship. (All our problems are really about relationships.) You can also find me at www.chughes-cms.com and on the Psychology Today Web site.
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