September 07, 2003
Carrots and Sticks

In the New York Times Magazine, “The Futile Pursuit of Happiness”, talking about why the things that make us happy and the things that make us sad don't make us as happy or as sad as we think they will [via est]:

“And in the same way that our eye adapts to different levels of illumination, we're designed to kind of go back to the happiness set point. Our brains are not trying to be happy. Our brains are trying to regulate us.” In this respect, the tendency toward adaptation suggests why the impact bias is so pervasive. As Tim Wilson says: “We don't realize how quickly we will adapt to a pleasurable event and make it the backdrop of our lives. When any event occurs to us, we make it ordinary. And through becoming ordinary, we lose our pleasure.”

Apparently people do a very bad job of predicting what will make them happy and just how happy it will make them. It's also interesting that research suggests that “wealth above middle-class comfort makes little difference to our happiness, for example, or that having children does nothing to improve well-being -- even as it drives marital satisfaction dramatically down.” and “the data make it all too clear that boosting the living standards of those already comfortable, such as through lower taxes, does little to improve their levels of well-being, whereas raising the living standards of the impoverished makes an enormous difference.”

Last night, at a BBQ on the west side, Jack said there were three crucial components to being happy: The first is an optimistic perspective on life. Second, being part of a strong social network. Third... well, Jack couldn't remember the third. But I think it's slow-cooked pork ribs.

Did you know that Bertrand Russell wrote a self-help book? It's not bad.

Posted by jjwiseman at September 07, 2003 05:47 PM

It's also funny when those things that you never thought would make you happy unexpectedly do. That's the best.

Posted by: Craig on September 7, 2003 06:25 PM

You should read ("The Pursuit of Unhappiness" by behavioural scientist Paul Watzlawick), if you're into self-help books;this one is really really good. It illustrates how to satisfy yourself by seeking unhappiness. Quite clever, I think.

Posted by: Andreas Fuchs on September 7, 2003 11:23 PM
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