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Archive for December 8th, 2007

It turns out thinking positively about yourself in the future improves present happiness as well. Researchers dub this the “best possible self” approach.

The idea is to set aside 20 minutes each day to think about the best-case scenario for yourself for some definitive time in the future. Even better — write down a detailed description of what that life will be like for you. Be realistic, but don’t be afraid to reach as well. Studies show that having just-out-of-reach goals greatly improves your overall feelings of well-being. To keep things fresh, try changing the topic from day to day. For example, focus on your job one week or your personal life the next. Finally, try using this technique for 30 days straight and see if that doesn’t produce a more habitual way of thinking for you, especially if you don’t typically project yourself much in the future.

This certainly doesn’t work for everybody, but if you want to feel happier today, try putting yourself in the best possible light of tomorrow.

Source: Toward a Durable Happiness by Jaime L. Kurtz and Sonja Lyubomirsky

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Evidence keeps building that adaptation plays an important role in one’s well-being.

Studies suggest that once a significant event occurs in our lives, whether it’s good or bad, we eventually adapt to the impact of that event and then return to our previous satisfaction levels. That explains, in part, why lottery winners who were studied only reported experiencing slight increases in happiness levels or why spinal cord injury victims were not as unhappy as one would think two months after their accident.

One researcher called this the “hedonic treadmill.” We revert back to our usual levels of happiness in a relatively short period of time after a spike. It’s called “treadmill” because we can never stay at this new level of well-being for very long.

But subsequent research disputed this theory. For example, the return to “normalcy’ took much longer, occurred more slowly or never happened at all for some people, such as widows and caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. That has led researchers to question whether people fall back to their previous “average” level of well-being or do they find a different, new middle ground after their significant incident and they settle into that?

This much is known — adaptation matters. Whether it’s immediate or long-term, how we adapt to life events can have a profound effect on our happiness.

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