Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happiness and unhappiness

I was reading this book which says that happiness is genetically predisposed. Not predetermined or hardwired, but has a tendency to be. This is quite clearly demonstrated by people who seem to be perpetually happy no matter what happens around them, good or bad.

On the other hand, there are people who seem to be always miserable and can look at the downside of everything, even when positive things happen.

It is due to the fact that they look at things differently. Apparently, unhappy people tend to take things personally, that somehow the bad things that happen are connected to them.

Just some food for thought. I don't know where this post is going anyway.

Another point is that external factors influence on our moods are seldom over-estimated. We always think that winning the lottery, dating that hot guy, getting a high paying job, owning that sleek car and having to-die-for body would make us much happier.

True, it will. But only for the short term. Then we would revert to the original level of our happiness (or unhappiness). And we would mistakenly think that the next better car / job / guy would make us happier and the cycle repeats itself.

Basically the point is, people generally stay at their normal level of happiness or unhappiness in the long term. Something like mean reversion (too technical, anyone?). There may be occasional spikes and dips, but sooner or later, we would go back to the previous level.

I still don't know where I am going with this.

Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one day without your eyes blind. Or you were to have kidney failure and need to undergo dialysis for the rest of your lives. We would think that we would be pretty miserable, won't we? Some of us might even think that it is better to die than to suffer for the rest of our lives.

However, if we talked to dialysis patients we would find that they are actually quite happy. In fact, as happy as normal people are. How can that be? It is because firstly, we only focus on one aspect of the disability, forgetting to look at the big picture. We only look at the bad and forget about the good.

You see, we would still have our friends and family. We may be inconvenienced for a few hours a week to go to the hospital, but generally the other aspects of our live wouldn't change too drastically.

Secondly is the reverting to the normal mood thing which I talked about earlier. After a while, you would somehow adapt or cope and the disability would become just another part of your life. Of course, some people never recover from their depressive moods but for most of us, we do.

The point I am driving at is that it is not the end of the world when misfortune strikes. The human spirit is far more resilient that we give it credit for.

The end.

9 comments:

Leonardo said...

Very well said. Life runs its course in a circular motions or good things will end and all bad things will ALSO end. Its about balance. Ying and Yang. Hence neutrality.

Our bodies are formed to endure all good things and bad. If we tend to head to either dictions for a long period of time, the body could not hold it for a very long time.

Same goes to diet eating or excessive work out.

Same goes as swiping the card and getting new clothes.

Everything has a consequences. To level things up, all will be set to neutral.

Jaded_Jeremy said...

So cheem.So since I fail my exams so many times, I should be passing the next few ones eh? ;-)

I actually dun believe it. You can be permanently happier than before. I can say for certain that I'm happier now than, say, when I was 9 years old.

Jacqueline Johns - Your Happy Life Mentor said...

Your happiness level is a choice you make every moment of every day.
You can choose to focus on the good, or the bad, its totally up to you.
You can choose to see bad things as evidence that your life is cr_p, or as something that will make you stronger as you experience it, knowing it will pass.

I choose happiness!

Derek said...

Leonardo: Yeah, I agree with you. Looks like you have taken the concept and applied to everything else ;-)


jaded_jeremy: If your level of happiness now is higher than when you were 9, surely this is your new mean? I didn't say the mean doesn't change. There are people who are happier than they were before and vice versa.


Jacqueline: I agree with you. One can choose to be happy or not. Whatever one's genetic predisposition is, it could be change. The key is to change one's perception about life.

JamesW850i said...

So, the higher the mean, the harder it is to feel happy?? Can I say that... I mean theoretically and directly at the answer "If your level of happiness now is higher than when you were 9, surely this is your new mean? I didn't say the mean doesn't change. There are people who are happier than they were before and vice versa."

HappyBoy said...

Has anyone ever thought that there can be something else other than happiness or unhappiness - whatever happiness means - as the measure of the worthiness, or otherwise, of your life?

There is a really a very very simple way to be happy: just ignore what you don't like and only dwell and focus on what you like. (Some call this attitude positive.)

But is this a wise thing?

I once saw someone truly happy.

She was walking with her mum, and her mum was telling her a joke. And she was beaming from ear to ear, a smile so dazzling that it was blinding, an utterly pure, genuine, innocent, and totally unencumbered joy and delight.

She had Down's syndrome.

So anyone can be happy.

But is that what you merely want to be?

PS: Some may say it is better to be happy than wise.

JamesW850i said...

"better to be happy than wise"

Amen......

Derek said...

james: James dear, that's not what I meant. I explain to you when I meet you OK? ;-)


HappyBoy: Hey there. Thanks for dropping by. By the way, cool and apt nick ;-)

You didn't really say what you think is the "something else that measure the worthiness of your life".

For me, I would think it's love. But to love and be loved make me happy, so indirectly it is happiness.

HappyBoy said...

Then why not just say you seek love?

And love also is pain, sacrifice, misunderstandings, suffering for another, even loneliness.

But most would avoid these when they seek happiness.