Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Checking In - The Pursuit of Happiness

I’ve been engaging in a number of hedon inducing adventures lately, so I thought it time to check in and see the impact of these spikes of fun. Looking at my weekly mappiness, it seems that while still volatile, I hit an all time weekly high, crossing the 80% mark. Not bad. Now the question is, can I sustain it? Is there a hedon hangover in my future? What's a reasonable happiness level? All good questions - perhaps I'll even answer some as I continue this project.

Happiness on the rise, but can I sustain it?

In the meantime I came across this article in the Chicago Tribune (Study of happiness is great, but why am I still bummed out?) which gives me some additional hope for success in my endeavors. However it does start with an anecdote illustrating the maxim: The best way to be happy is not to think about whether you are happy. This, if true, destines my rational hedonism project here to failure. Fortunately, the article moves on to mention some interesting biological work going on in the study of happiness.

Buddha Brain or the Happiness Trap

There were a couple noteworthy references in the article that caught my eye: The first called out the work of Rick Hanson, author of “Buddha’s Brain.” He asserts that we can condition our brains to become “happiness traps,” by savoring our moments of pleasure and happiness. Perhaps this is a bit like positive affirmations. By repeating a statement you come to believe it, act on it, and ultimately become it. If that’s true, then perhaps my work here is actually a contributing factor to my increased happiness; I not only savor my happy moments, I also take time to relive hem a little in their retelling. Well, I certainly hope that is true.

The second reference was to  study that showed that people become happier after 50 – a milestone date that is fast approaching for me. The suggested reason for this, is that with age comes better managed expectations along with more moderate aspirations. I can certainly get behind better management of expectations as a contributing factor to ongoing happiness. However, that last part - moderate aspirations - seems to imply that perhaps we just grow content with our dullness. I hope I can avoid that fate, and keep doing fun and interesting things.

So is the pursuit of happiness a fools quest? Well, this fool plans to carry on a while longer,


1 comment:

  1. I think things will only get better with age! Someone asked me if I was turning 29 again on my 30th birthday and I thought that was ridiculous! I'm looking forward to getting older and happier :)