The Myths of Happiness

The Myths of Happiness - by Sonja Lyubomirsky #

Date Read: 2018-12-27 #

Notes #

Hedonic adaptation - we get used to what is good, so it no longer provides us with any pleasure

In general, how to make better decisions (that are less clouded by your feeling unhappy)

  1. note your intuitions and shelve them for a while, giving yourself time to think things through systematically
  2. seek the opinion of an outsider/take the perspective of an objective observer
  3. consider the opposite of what your intuition is
  4. weigh all options simultaneously, not one at a time.

Counter hedonic adaptation (with a partner)

  • being grateful
  • variation
  • surprise
  • try to observe ways in which each occasion is actually different

Good relationships have “approach” goals not “avoidance” goals

Good ratio of happy to negative emotions - 3:1 to 5:1

Revisit bad experiences like a fly on a wall, being an objective observer. Reframe the experience in a way that helps us to gain insight and obtain closure.

Daily hassles make you unhappier than major traumas. So work on the small issues too, taking time to recharge, relax.

Singles - continue to develop friendship as they age and stay better in touch. Companions of singles are people they have chosen, whereas close companions of marrieds are frequently chosen for them.

How to be the best possible single self - practice optimism. Journal your hopes and dreams, describe how you might get there.

Combat negative thinking by finding ways to reinterpret your circumstances more positively

Combating hedonic adaptation to your job

  • rein in your aspirations (only if they are too high)
  • concretely reexperience - remind yourself on a regular basis and in a tangible way what your former less satisfying work life was like.
  • concretely observe - make occasional visits to friends’ places of business and unobtrusively compare them to yours
  • be genuinely grateful - contemplate the positive aspects of your job. muster effort and commitment
  • is your reference point realistic? (e.g. are you overlooking high stress, monotony, etc., in a dream job )
  • make it your “last” day (appreciate what you are going to give up)

Ultradian Dip - cycles of 90 to 120 min, where at the end you feel a period of fatigue, lethargy, and difficulty concentrating. Don’t do stupid things during this time. Make sure to relax, do something easier, etc.

Reinterpret your past to add more positivity into it

Rethink and dispute pessimistic predictions.

Reexamine grand aspirations (Unhappy people are characterised by “It is not enough for me to be successful. My friends have to fail too”)

  • do not let the effect of social comparison get to you
  • someone will always be better than you
  • judge yourself on an internal scorecard, not an external one

You have to enjoy the journey not the end

  • Spend money on experiences, not things.
  • Spend on more small pleasures, than a few large ones.
  • Spend money on need-satisfying activities.
  • Spend money on others, not yourself.
  • Spend money to give you time.
  • Spend money now, but wait to enjoy it.

My experience is what I agree to attend to

  • give your attention a rest or by relying on more automatic behaviours and thoughts
  • spend more time around nature
  • Meditation

The Matthew Effect

  • sugar rush
  • throaty laugh
  • dry wine
  • well deserved day off
  • glow of a supervisor’s praise
  • moment of connection with a child
  • satisfying cry
  • feeling of oneness
  • flash of awe in a museum

Bursts of positive emotion not only feel good, they are good.

  1. short bursts of gladness, tranquility, delight are not trivial at all
  2. frequency, not intensity that counts
  3. if you know which situations, places, times of day, etc, that make you feel happy, practice increasing the regularity of such moments

Dealing with bad news

Model 1

  1. Mobilize resources to deal with it
  2. Minimize those initial responses

Model 2

  1. Watchful waiting
  2. Active change
  3. Acceptance

Confiding is good for you.

If you disagree with any of the first five and if you agree with any of the last five, make pursuit of meaning in life one of your priorities

  1. I think that there is meaning in what I do
  2. I have a task in life
  3. I feel part of a bigger whole
  4. I lead a fulfilled life
  5. I think my life has a deeper meaning
  6. When I think about the meaning of my life, I find only emptiness
  7. My life seems meaningless
  8. I don’t see any sense in life
  9. I suffer from the fact that I don’t see any point in life
  10. My life seems empty

Many find meaning by linking our existence to something outside ourselves. “It” may be other people (e.g. children), institutions (e.g. volunteering), value systems (e.g. importance of research), or God.

Acknowledge your regret, incorporate into your identity, press forward to new goals. Don’t ruminate

  • approach lost opportunities, regrets in a systematic step by step approach. Use writing as a tool.
  • Danger signs: going over the same material again and again with no increased resolution, understanding
  • Danger signs: feeling like you don’t have control over the exercise. Thoughts or images coming to mind when we don’t want it to. When this happens, distract yourself and postpone this work to when you are neutral or positive mood.

Ponder counter factuals (what if? what might have been?)

  • view your life in a bigger picture perspective

Achieve Autobiographical Coherence

  • construct a life narrative of how we became who we are today, accept past and be less fearful of future
  • Writing helps, but go beyond facts and select appropriate particular memories that make sense

“Take one risk per month” (minimize regret, need to fail more) why is regret so painful?

  1. easier to rationalize actions than inactions
  2. regrets over inactions are not closed. Magnify over time.
  3. Consequences of inaction seem limitless
  4. Zeigarnik - regretted actions are past. But we tend to dwell on unfinished business.

Become a Satisficer - pick the “good enough” choice

  • maximisers - care about the best ever result, and any result is lacking in some way
  • minimize comparing with others - there will always be someone superior
  • note how much time spent on deciding. Set a time limit or a choice limit.

Use good memories to enhance your well being

  • replay happy moments, analyze unhappy ones

A good happiness goal

  • intrinsic
  • does not conflict with other goals
  • satisfy innate human needs (expert at something, connect with others, contribute to community)
  • aligned with our authentic values
  • reachable and flexible
  • attaining something rather than avoiding something