This week, my NGO, ‘Doctors For A Cause’ turned four! I still cannot believe it has been soo long. If you’ve been following the work that we have been doing, I would like to thank you for all the support.
If you haven’t you can read about Doctors For A Cause by clicking here. You may also visit us on Facebook and Instagram.
This week a friend of mine was venting out about how overwhelming work is. She hinted at how it may be affecting her overall happiness. I did not have much to say then, so I decided instead, to be a decent pair of ears for what it was worth.
I now think that maybe she might be miscalculating her happiness. Dan Gilbert in his book, ‘Stumbling on Happiness’, discusses the many ways in which we miscalculate how situations will affect our happiness. He goes on to reveal some counter-intuitive insights about how to be happy.
He mentions an interesting study where, researchers at Northwestern University in 1978 discovered that the happiness levels of paraplegics and lottery winners were essentially the same within a year after the event occurred.
You read that correctly. One person won a life-changing sum of money and another person lost the use of their limbs and within one year the two people were equally happy.
How can this be? – This has been referred to as The Impact Bias.
Traumatic events tend to trigger what Gilbert refers to as our “psychological immune systems.” Our psychological immune systems promote our brain’s ability to deliver a positive outlook and happiness from an inescapable situation.
This effect works conversely for extremely positive events. For example, consider how it would feel to win the lottery. Many people assume that winning the lottery would immediately deliver long-lasting happiness, but research has found the opposite.
We tend to overestimate the length or intensity of happiness that major events will create. The Impact Bias is one example of ‘affective forecasting’, which is a social psychology phenomenon that refers to our generally terrible ability as humans to predict our future emotional states.
How can I hack my happiness?
- We tend to focus on the thing that changes and forget about the things that don’t change. When thinking about winning the lottery, we cannot help but think about all of the money that it will bring in. However, we forget about the other 99 percent of our life and how it will remain more or less the same. We’ll still feel grumpy if we don’t get enough sleep. We still have to wait in rush hour traffic. We still have to work out if we want to stay in shape. We still have to send in our taxes each year. It will still hurt when we lose a loved one. We imagine the change, but we forget the things that stay the same.
- A challenge is an impediment to a particular thing, not to you as a person. In the words of Greek philosopher Epictetus, “Going lame is an impediment to your leg, but not to your will.” We overestimate how much negative events will harm our lives for precisely the same reason that we overvalue how much positive events will help our lives. We focus on the thing that occurs (like losing a leg), but forget about all of the other experiences of life. Watching football games on the weekend, reading a good book and eating a tasty meal are all pieces of the good life you can enjoy with or without a leg. Mobility issues represent but a small fraction of the experiences available to you.
- Negative events can create task-specific challenges, but the human experience is broad and varied. There is plenty of room for happiness in a life that may seem very foreign or undesirable to your current imagination.
I think I need to mention here that you cannot hack into your happiness overnight. However, I hope I could help bring some insight into ways you could be miscalculating your happiness. Being happy is easier than you think.
Until next time,
Anujeet’s book journey
This week I finished:
This Is Going To Hurt – Adam Kay
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse – Charlie Mackesy
Currently I am reading:
21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari
Aggregate, the weekly quote
There are four things in life that will change you. Love, music, art and loss. The first three will keep you wild and full of passion. May you allow the last to make you brave.
- Erin Van Vuren
Harmony, the weekly song
Empty - Ray Montagne
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