• Kirsti Gwynn

How to Stay Happy

What would make you happy?

Perhaps you wish you had someone to share your life with, and you know that a relationship would make you happy.

Maybe you feel like a different job would be the key to happiness—doing something you enjoy, or getting that big promotion.

If you had more money, you could finally stop stressing about it and enjoy life.

You might dream of living somewhere far away and exotic, instead of being stuck here.

Having the things you want in the various areas of your life can make a difference to how happy you are, but much less of a difference than you might think.

Goals matter for happiness, but they don’t guarantee it.

In fact, research shows that only 10% of our happiness comes from outside events, such as our circumstances.

So it’s risky to tie your happiness to outside events… and yet, this is the mistake most people make when it comes to being happy.

We believe that when we have everything we dream of, we’ll stay happy.

In reality, getting what you want will give you a very enjoyable emotional high for a while. Maybe the first month at that new job seems like a dream, or that new city feels like magic. Fall in love and you’ll enjoy an exhilarating three months of believing your partner is perfect.

But then you realise that there are aspects of your job you find frustrating, and your new boyfriend or girlfriend is capable of hurting your feelings. That there’s traffic in this city, too.

The high doesn’t last.

We get used to good things.

Psychologists have found that we experience what they call “hedonic adjustment”: we adapt to new, good things that once brought us great pleasure. (There is a survival benefit to this - we adjust to difficult circumstances, too.)

Once we adapt, we return to our happiness “set-point”, and feel more or less the same as we did before.

Because of hedonic adjustment, we end up on the “hedonic treadmill”…