These thoughts have been on my mind for some time, being happy seems to be a big part of life for many people, #YOLO right?
But to what extent does chasing happiness actually contribute to our personal well-being and does the fact we are chasing anything contradict ‘living for the moment’?
I discuss this below.
Happiness is a big dopamine kick, a reward for doing something you gain pleasure from, this could be food, achieving a goal, a new purchase, passing an exam, alcohol…. fill in the blank.
Extroverts are more sensitive to dopamine and more prone to seeking out pleasure to get the next hit.
Therefore, leading to the constant chasing of hedonistic pleasures, the next night out, the next drink or the next purchase with it somehow never being quite enough.
Do things that benefit the greater good and move outside your own concerns
So what’s the alternative?
A Work carried out by Martin Seligman, among’st others in the field of positive psychology suggests “The Pleasant Life” which consists of;
- Positive emotions
- Engagement (Eudaimonia)
These positive emotions such as ‘joy’, ‘gratitude’, ‘serenity’, ‘interest’, ‘hope’, ‘pride’, ‘amusement’, ‘inspiration’, ‘awe’ and ‘love’.
All of these can be practiced through daily acts, developed over time leading to a more consistent and sustained sense of well-being.
In addition to developing positive emotions, engage in activities that elicit the responses.
Another factors to consider is to smile more, walk in nature, keep a gratitude journal, love others, watch comedy, read inspiring stories, surround yourself with positive people who you aspire to be more like.
Make time for loved ones, show people you care by thanking them and make this part of what you do, your first thought not an afterthought. This isn’t easy but through purposeful daily practice it gets easier.
Engagement in your job, your family, your life. Actively carrying out activities where time stands still for you, some call this flow, others the zone but here you fully engaged, engrossed in what you do. Mindfulness and time awareness are both areas that can be worked through.
Where is your head at? Thinking about the last meeting and how you ‘should have’, ‘could have’ or ‘would have’ done something different?
Or perhaps the event that’s coming up next week that you ‘need to’ impress at? Either way, you can not control either right now, bring your head back to now..its the only time you have.
You will naturally drift again, that’s okay, recognize then come back to now, it’s the only time you have.
Meaning, knowing what your strengths are and using them towards something bigger than you. Do things that benefit the greater good and move outside your own concerns
Having a purpose or meaning can be difficult to find, but do start. What do you enjoy, what do you find of interest?
These two questions are a nice starting point, from here persevere, try things out for a fixed period of time and allow things to develop.
If you can muster all three; positive emotions, engagement and meaning, pleasure can be found in abundance.
I’m not against the ‘Happy life’ but hedonism at all costs is not sustainable, “we” as a society can not continuously get our next kick without stepping on each other’s toes or plundering resources, perhaps settling for a pleasant life is good enough?
See Seligmans entire TED talk.
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