How to stay happier for longer

Jun 14, 2012

Psychology professors Kennon Sheldon and University of California-Riverside professor Sonja Lyubomirsky have published a study claiming that happiness boosts from positive life changes. 

Sheldon says we tend to fall back to the level of happiness we were at before that boost.  It's called hedonic adaptation.  But the study has two suggestions to prevent that from happening. Sheldon says we should keep having daily experiences along with the life change in order to stay in the moment. He also says we should not start wanting more too soon.
“There’s this tendency when things get better," says Sheldon, "that becomes the new normal, the new baseline. And then we want even more. The key is to kind of resist that for as long as possible. And the model says the way to do that is to stop and appreciate and feel grateful for what you have.”

Sheldon says a person’s level of happiness is largely genetic and that level is generally stuck in a specified range. The study addresses how to stay in the top of that range. Yale University professor John Dovidio says the study of happiness goes against common sense but can help improve people’s lives.

“And it really tells us that disappointment is kind of normal," says Dovidio, "and it tells us how we can adjust the way we think and what we do and how we behave in ways that will sustain happiness and happiness is related to wellbeing.” Dovidio says the study changes the idea that happiness is only temporary. But rather, it can be prolonged from a single event.