Hedonic Adaptation, & Helping Ourselves


Here’s a scenario we’ve heard before: an unhappy person wins the lottery, then after a brief flirtation with happiness that unhappy person returns to their normal state of misery. The influx of money, power, or prestige has no long term effect on the unhappy individual.

Here’s a more relatable example, you lose something you really care about, perhaps it’s a job opportunity, a valuable heirloom, maybe even a significant relationship. During the initial loss, you are devastated, but then after some time you bounce back, find perspective, and move on - living your life much as you did before the loss. This remarkable feat of human consistency is known as Hedonic Adaptation, and as anyone who has ever grieved a high school sweetheart, only to forget their name a decade later will tell you, it can actually be a blessing.

Sonja Lyubomirsky's "How of Happiness" is an empirical guide explaining the science behind happiness and offering strategies that have been proven effective when it comes to increasing and maintaining a positive outlook. Hedonic Adaptation plays a part in this because one of the book's major revelations is that we all have our own fixed happiness set-point. This means that no matter what we endure, or achieve, we tend to experience our highs and lows and revert back to our baseline standard of happiness. 

According to her analysis - 50% of our ‘Set Point’ is biological (​thanks parents,)​ but ​only​ 10% of our happiness comes from our circumstances.

This is actually great news, because it means your long term happiness isn’t dependent on the size of your house, your current job, or even the stability of your marriage (although it can certainly feel like it.)

The data shows that a whopping ​40%​ of our happiness is based on what we do: AKA “Intentional Activity.” And yes, while some people are inevitably dealt an unlucky genetic hand, Sonja’s study shows that even those suffering from depression experienced an emotional improvement by taking tangible actions geared towards improving their baseline of happiness.

So what are these miracles actions?

That’s the even better news, most are easy, intuitive, and some you may be doing already!
Sonja’s goal is to make us more aware and more committed to them.

1. Gratitude & Positive Thinking

Expressing Gratitude, Cultivating Optimism, & Avoiding Overthinking & Social Comparison

Daily gratitude has been linked to more energy, healthier lifestyles, and a stronger sense of wellbeing. When we take into account the blessings in our lives, and work on being the best possible people we can, while encouraging ourselves to be hopeful about ourselves and our futures we tend to become happier.

2. Investing in Social Connections

Practicing Acts of Kindness & Nurturing Social Relationships

Doing kind things for others has been shown to abate guilt and stress. It increases awareness for others, and assists us in appreciating our own circumstances. As for social relationships, connecting with one another is one of our most basic biological imperatives, built into our need for survival. Engaging in intimate relationships brings joy, depth, maturity, and compassion for others, and the world at large.

3. Managing Stress, Hardship, & Trauma

Developing Strategies for Coping & Learning to Forgive
 
No matter our fortune, life will inevitably offer stress and sadness, and the more techniques we have to deal with the pain, sorrow, or stress, the more likely we are not to succumb to the weight of our trials. Whether it is by creating action plans, or finding ways to attribute benefits from traumas that we have experienced - there are various strategies we can use to not only conquer or traumas, but to grow from them. Additionally, learning to forgive others can provide a lightness of being and liberation from our traumas, allowing us to move past them more effectively.

4. Living in the Present

Increasing Flow Experiences & Savoring Life’s Joys
 
The term “Flow” is defined as being completely engaged in an activity, so that time passes without our noticing, since our concentration is absorbed on something we find pleasing, challenging, and that incorporates our skills.

We can increase our chance of finding flow by being open to new experiences, observing what brings us to flow, and by creating micro-tasks within mundane routines that can bring more joy and engagement to them. ​(Something as simple as tapping your foot to an intricate song while driving can help distract from traffic frustrations.) ​

Savoring joys overlaps with gratitude, and means not only embracing the present, but savoring past memories that we love. It means asking ourselves consistently if we are enjoying what we are experiencing, and finding ways to savor even the most ordinary of moments.

5. Committing to your Goals

What Kind of Goals Should You Pursue? Recommendations for Committed Goal Pursuit

This section emphasizes the importance of goals to happiness, defining the notion of goals as “one thing which gives radiance to everything. It is the idea of something around the corner.” Surely, we have felt this radiance when planning an exciting trip, and we can apply it to other goals too.

We must also discern the difference between goals that we choose for ourselves, and those that we feel pressured to achieve, we must rank our goals, and implement strategies to achieve them

6. Taking Care of Your Body and Your Soul

Practicing Religion & Spirituality, Taking Care of Your Body (Mediation & Physical, Acting like a Happy Person) 
 
This section emphasizes the interconnectedness of our mind, body, and soul. By feeding all these areas we ensure that we are a fully-functioning organism. This is done by developing a consistent spiritual practice, practicing mindfulness, incorporating physical activities into one’s routine, and faking-it-till you make it attitude for achieving happiness.
Cultivating happiness is not a quick fix, we need to overcome our urge to compare and despair, and bring the focus back to ourselves. We must also commit to doing the deep work of uncovering our triggers, so that when they show up in our lives, we’re a step ahead of them.

​“Oh hello, insecurity - nice to see you, here at my best friend’s wedding, co-worker’s promotion, or my sister’s new house, etc... I acknowledge you, and release you. So long!”

We can break the pattern of dark thoughts, by recognizing them, accepting them, and moving onto the next right action. We can practice positivity and rewire our brains, one thought at a time. We don’t have to do it alone either, whether we seek outside help, or we call up to check on friends and family, when ​WE are having a bad day; there’s always something in our control and that is our ​attitude​.

By choosing to take action towards happiness, we’re saying to ourselves: we deserve happiness and we CAN obtain it.


Relevant Goodies 


Go deep with a Ted Talk by Sanjiv Chopra  👉 Click Here.
Steps to Ground Yourself  👉 Click Here.
Quick tips for a Morning Gratitude List 👉 Click Here.

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