Is the ‘feel good’ feeling transient because we’re wired that way?
It seems that Americans in general see themselves as being happy. The problem, according to the recent TIME magazine article, is that happiness doesn't seem to be lasting.
At first this seems unfair and yet, where would we be if it were lasting. Can you imagine the end result if the euphoria you get from success or good sex or indulging in fine food and wine were lasting....well to put it mildly....what would you do with yourself? There would certainly be less fat people; in fact there would be less people.
If that fine feeling we get from a relaxing massage were to last forever, my massage therapist would be out of work, and I would be as well - for I wouldn't feel inclined to get up off the massage table and get to work.
So perhaps this need to continually 'strive' for the feel good place is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it forces us to evolve and a curse because we can never get enough. When we're happy and content, we aren’t typically motivated to change, merely to maintain. Is this why the physical body was designed to always want more? On the other hand many of the things that bring us pleasure tend to become addictive; food, alcohol, sex, spending, working, even meditation and religion.
So is there such a thing as too much happiness? I doubt it. Happy people are definitely healthier. As an example, it's been shown that happy people produced 50% more antibodies when given the flu vaccine than those not professing to be happy. The one common thing that seems to make people the happiest is connecting with others; friends, family, colleagues.
Happy people have more friends, are better at health maintenance and live longer. Yet there has never been a time when more people were on prescription drugs.
We must each take responsibility for our happiness. We must realize when we're happy (be aware of the state of happiness) and look at what life looks like from this state. One way to become aware of this state of happiness is to do a simple daily exercise. Each day write down a ‘trio of blessings’. These blessings are what went right and why. I hate to use the over-used word balance, but like so many things, happiness and feeling good needs to be a balance. We don't have to go overboard to the drug induced state nor do we have to focus on our worries until we become depressed. Paying attention daily to what went right and why will keep us focused on what works - not what doesn’t work.
Every day we must renew our commitment to be happy. I read recently that when Oprah was asked how she manages to run 5 miles every day (and doesn’t she look good!); she said she has to commit again every single day. I believe it is the same with happiness.
So we work to evolve to the place of comfortable, the place of satisfaction, the place of knowledge, the place of success (whatever that means to you), the place of fun, of relaxation.....must we continue to apply tremendous pressure to ourselves to capture the next big promotion, the next fast car, or the next new dress? There is no right or wrong answer here; in fact it has been proven that we need something to look forward to. The 'anticipation' of happiness is as important as the actual event. The higher the anticipation the higher the brain activity involved. Are we programmed for 'the pursuit of excellence' as Lexus says or are we just programmed to pursue and never be satisfied?
What I want for all of us is to live from the place of optimism. To stop long enough to recognize the satisfaction and the blessings of life before we enter the race to the next finish line. To use the old phrase, not only do we need to stop, we need to really smell the roses daily.
There are millions spent each year to study disease and it's not likely we’ll hear talk of funding optimism research on the Senate floor any time soon. I wonder what slant such a study could offer on the huge problem of rising health care costs, failing marriages, obesity and drug abuse.