Happiness is one of the major goals of the majority of the persons. We all want to be happy. However, very few decide to work hard to achieve it. Most of the people remains idly, waiting for happiness to knock at their door and sometimes when they decide to give themselves a chance, don’t even open up that door. Why?
The expectation of being happy plays tricks on us
A series of experiments conducted at Stanford University, revealed why happiness is so elusive for many people. According to these psychologists, the key lies in our expectations.
These researchers analyzed how happy people become while helping others. In one experiment they recruited 92 people, to which was told about patients who were seeking bone marrow donors and asked them to do something to help.
The key was that to some of them was given an abstract goal: "give more hope to these patients" while to the others a more specific objective: "increase the odds of these patients to find a donor."
Does the mere change of purpose could influence the level of satisfaction and happiness experienced by people with the help given?
Psychologists found that, indeed, the specific objectives generated greater satisfaction and happiness than abstract goals, the results were evident through the rest of the experiments. Why?
These researchers say that while our goals are more abstract, the less likely we are to be happy, even if these are true. The key is that the abstract goals often give rise to more unrealistic expectations so that, ultimately, we are not enough satisfied, and we end up unhappy.
Practically, it's like when we look forward to a specific moment in our life but when it finally arrives it doesn’t meet our expectations and we did not feel as happy as expected. In fact, this is something we all experienced at least once in our life.
Therefore, it is recommended that if you want to be happy, you have to focus on specific goals, things that can make you feel good here and now. Happiness is not an abstract condition, it is something to conquer step by step.
Being happier step by step
1. Contact a friend. The greatest source of happiness, and the most durable, are good relationships. Spending time with people we love is the best medicine for anxiety and depression and also one of the most direct ways to find happiness. If it is a long time you don’t see a good friend get in touch with him and organize a meeting.
2. Practice half an hour of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise, more than any other type of physical activity, particularly contributes generating a positive mood characterized by relaxation and a feeling of fullness. This is because it stimulates the production of endorphins, neurotransmitters that generate wealth and happiness. The good news is that you don’t need to spend much time on it, half an hour a day is enough.
3. List three reasons for feeling grateful. All different philosophical currents converge on gratitude as one of the keys to happiness. The simple act of saying thanks for what we have, instead of complaining about what we don’t, makes us feel fortunate and gives us serenity, two basic aspects of happiness.
4. Imagine the best picture of you. Putting your mind at work to create the best image of yourself is a very positive exercise. In fact, it allows you to face the daily routine with a more optimistic outlook and increase your self-confidence. Do not forget that one of the biggest barriers that prevent you from being happy are the negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself.
5. Ask yourself a goal that you can achieve today. Achieving our goals makes us feel powerful, creates a sense of satisfaction to ourselves and increases confidence in our abilities. So that if you cultivate these feelings, you will also be happier. Consider a different objective everyday and stick to it. At the end of the day you will feel satisfied and a little happier.
Remember that the secret is to understand that happiness is not a destination, it is a part of the path.
Melanie Rudd, Jennifer Aaker, Michael I. Norton. (2014) Getting the Most out of Giving: Concretely Framing a Prosocial Goal Maximizes Happiness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology; 54: 11-24.
Walton, G. M. et. Al. (2012) Mere belonging: the power of social connections. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(3): 513.
Reed, J. & Ones, D. S. (2006) The effect of acute aerobic exercise on positive activated affect: A meta-analysis. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 7(5): 477-514.
Meevissen, Y. et. Al. (2011) Become more optimistic by imagining a best possible self: Effects of a two week intervention. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 42(3): 371-378.
Emmons, R. A. & McCullough, M. E. (2003) Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2): 377.
5 things you can do right now to be happier
4/ 5Oleh Jennifer Delgado