Good things happen to us all the time. We get a raise; our child brings home great marks; our troubled employee finally starts showing up for work on time. We hope for these things and we are happy about them for a while, but strangely the happiness soon fades away and we find ourselves right back at the same general level of happiness (or unhappiness). It seems like we find new things to focus on. We also go through painful events and somehow we seem to overcome them and go back to the same level of general happiness.
Psychologists call this “hedonic adaptation,” which Wikipedia describes as “the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.”
If good and bad things don’t change our long-term happiness that much, are we to live the rest of our lives having generally the same outlook with some highs and lows here and there? The research suggests that without significant change in our mental processes, the answer is yes.
Fortunately, research exists that provides hope. Serious research is showing us that the power of positive thinking is real. Barbara Fredrickson is a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, and she published a landmark paper that provides surprising insights about positive thinking and its impact on your skills. Her work is among the most referenced and cited in her field, and it is surprisingly useful in everyday life. Fredrickson proved empirically that positive thought alone –independent of life circumstances – created considerable improvement in people’s overall levels of happiness.
Fredrickson’s studies used loving-kindness meditation as the means to induce positive thought. Personally, I find meditation a bit corny, so I have begun spending a few minutes each morning reading over positive thoughts I have collected in my online journal.
One of my favourites that I read often is “the seven rules of life” (author unknown):
I also like:
“I am in charge of how feel and today I choose happiness.” (Author unknown)
“Being miserable is a habit; being happy is a habit; and the choice is yours.” (Tom Hopkins)
“Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity.” (Joseph Sugarman)
Reading over my little collection of inspirational quotes and thoughts daily is helping me in ways I never imagined. I am happier in my work and my whole life. Sometimes simple things really do make a difference.