How Can Humans Find Happiness?
Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist and teacher, presents different hypothesis:
1.- It comes from getting what you want but it’s short-lived;
2.- It comes from within and cannot be obtained by making the world conform to your desires;
3.- He concludes it comes from within and from without.
The Paradox of Abundance
He starts by saying that we are facing the paradox of abundance. There is an infinite library and we only can read a small part of it. So in order to achieve wisdom, the author of The Happiness Hypothesis presents ten great ideas that has been discovered by several of the world’s civilizations. I chose one: The pursuit of happiness.
Is happiness related to find the meaning of one’s life?
This question leads me to Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. How the identification of a purpose in life helped him to bear his extreme suffering in an Auschwitz concentration camp.
Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.
The author of The Happiness Hypothesis seems to connect with it. So why do some people find meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in life, and others do not?
Happiness comes from within, and from without
Buddhism and Stoicism teach that happiness comes from within, and can be found by breaking attachments to external things and cultivating an attitude of acceptance. But the author of The Happiness Hypothesis says that there are things worth striving for, and that’s why happiness also comes from outside.
Richard Davidson, the psychologist who brought us affective style and the approach circuits of the front left cortex, writes about two types of positive affect:
1. Pre-goal attainment positive affect: The pleasurable feeling you get as you make progress toward a goal.
2. Post-goal attainment positive affect: It arises once you have achieved something you want.
When it comes to goal pursuit, it really is the journey that counts, not the destination. Set for yourself any goal you want. Most of the pleasure will be had along the way, with every step that takes you closer. The final moment of success is often no more thrilling than the relief of taking a off a heavy backpack at the end of a long hike. If you went on the hike only to feel that pleasure, you are fool.
Jonathan Haidt explains the second biggest finding in happiness research: Most environmental and demographic factors influence happiness very little.
The Happiness Formula
Three psychologysts, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ken Sheldon, and David Schkade, realized there are two kinds of externals: the conditions of your life (race, sex, age, disability-wealth, marital status-where you live) and the voluntary activities that you undertake (exercise, meditating, learning a new skill). They formulated The Happiness Formula:
[bluebox] H=S+C+V [/bluebox]
The level of happiness that you actually experience (H) is determined by your biological set point (S) plus the conditions of your life (C) plus the voluntary activities (V) you do.
The challenge for positive psychology is to use the scientific method to find out exactly what kinds of C and V can push H up to the top of your potential range.
What is V in the happiness formula?
Csikszentmihalyi, professor of psychologist and author of Flow, discovered that there are two different kinds of enjoyment:
One is physical or bodily pleasure. At meal times, people report the highest levels of happiness, on average. People really enjoy eating, especially in the company of others, and they hate to be interrupted by telephone calls during meals, or during sex. But you can’t enjoy physical pleasure all day long. By their nature, food and sex satiate. To continue eating or having sex beyond a certain level of satisfaction can lead to disgust.
The other is the state of total immersion in a task that is challenging yet closely matched to one’s abilities. It is what people sometimes call ‘being in the zone.’ Csikszentmihalyi called it Flow. Flow can happen during solitary creative activities, such as painting, writing, or photography.
Drawing on Csikszentmihalyi’s work, Seligman proposes a fundamental distinction between pleasures and gratifications. Pleasures are delights that have clear sensory and strong emotional components, such as many derived from food, sex, backrubs, and cool breezes. Gratifications are activities that engage you fully, draw your strengths, and allow you to lose self-consciousness. Gratifications can lead to flow.
Seligman proposes that V (voluntary activities) is largely a matter of arranging your day and your environment to increase both pleasures and gratifications.