What makes you happy?

Karla - posted on 05/03/2012 ( 38 moms have responded )

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From the lecture by Dan Gilbert on Why are We Happy?

"We smirk because we believe that synthetic happiness is not of the same quality as what we might call "natural happiness." What are these terms? Natural happiness is what we get when we get what we wanted, and synthetic happiness is what we make when we don't get what we wanted. And in our society, we have a strong belief that synthetic happiness is of an inferior kind. Why do we have that belief? Well, it's very simple. What kind of economic engine would keep churning if we believed that not getting what we want could make us just as happy as getting it?"

"I want to suggest to you that synthetic happiness is every bit as real and enduring as the kind of happiness you stumble upon when you get exactly what you were aiming for. Now, I'm a scientist, so I'm going to do this not with rhetoric, but by marinating you in a little bit of data."

"....The psychological immune system works best when we are totally stuck, when we are trapped. This is the difference between dating and marriage, right? I mean, you go out on a date with a guy, and he picks his nose; you don't go out on another date. You're married to a guy and he picks his nose? Yeah, he has a heart of gold; don't touch the fruitcake. Right? (Laughter) You find a way to be happy with what's happened. Now what I want to show you is that people don't know this about themselves, and not knowing this can work to our supreme disadvantage."

"....In more turgid prose, but closer to the truth, was the father of modern capitalism, Adam Smith, and he said this. This is worth contemplating: "The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life seems to arise from overrating the difference between one permanent situation and another ... Some of these situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others, but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardor which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice, or to corrupt the future tranquility of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse for the horror of our own injustice." In other words: yes, some things are better than others."

"....We should have preferences that lead us into one future over another. But when those preferences drive us too hard and too fast because we have overrated the difference between these futures, we are at risk. When our ambition is bounded, it leads us to work joyfully. When our ambition is unbounded, it leads us to lie, to cheat, to steal, to hurt others, to sacrifice things of real value. When our fears are bounded, we're prudent; we're cautious; we're thoughtful. When our fears are unbounded and overblown, we're reckless, and we're cowardly."

"The lesson I want to leave you with from these data is that our longings and our worries are both to some degree overblown, because we have within us the capacity to manufacture the very commodity we are constantly chasing when we choose experience."

So, what makes you happy? Have you been disappointed with happenings in your life, but still found happiness? Do you believe you would be more happy in a perfect life situation?


Full transcript and video 21:20
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/dan_gil...

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Jodi - posted on 05/06/2012

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I have struggled with depression my entire life. I am one of those people that I DO NOT WANT your advice or solutions. I really just want someone to "be there" as if everything were normal. Leave the door open for me to talk if I want to, don't pressure me and when I tell you something, sympathize with me. My husband and my mom know, that if I'm off my meds (I can sometimes go a year or 2 without medication) and start getting depressed, they need to straight up tell me I need to get in to the see the doctor, but from anyone else, I would be pissed they said anything. If you know someone with depression, it might be a good idea to ask someone close to them what you can do, since everyone needs different forms of support, they can probably tell you what that person prefers or responds the best to.

Janice - posted on 05/06/2012

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Jenny

I personally prefer to just not share with anyone but a therapist (not that I see one now) because I have become so uncomfortable sharing.



I think each person is different so what may help me would not help another. I think listening with out trying to help is good sometimes. Also I think if you can physically help the person, do so. I remember during my 2nd pregnancy my aunt stopped by to give me some hand me downs. She already knew I had been feeling down and she came in and just said lets get some stuff organized. She didnt give me ideas on how to get my life in order or how to fix things, she just worked with me to clean out and organize some space in my home and it really was nice to have someone help me get work done and to know that she cared so much.

Jenny - posted on 05/05/2012

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Sorry, my previous responses were after I had read the original post a few days ago, I didn't really respond to the article itself. I've just read the full interactive transcript from the link.



"Natural happiness is what we get when we get what we wanted, and synthetic happiness is what we make when we don’t get what we wanted. In our society, we have a strong belief that synthetic happiness is of an inferior kind"



I still think synthetic happiness is inferior.



If you're not sure, just try laughing out loud now, just for the sake of it. Then compare that laugh to a real spontaneous laugh.



Sometimes we will have neither natural happiness nor synthetic happiness. It's kind of like this guy is only presenting to us two options. Being happy naturally by getting what we want or pretending to be happy with not getting what we want. Sometimes we are sad, angry, frustrated, in-love, excited, surprised etc etc..because of getting or not getting what we want.



We don't have to be happy all the time and we don't have to be directly happy with less than favorable circumstances in order to be happy when we go through them.



I don't have to be happy about the thought that I don't know where I'm going to get money to meet our next mortgage payment. I can be grateful that we're not yet living on the streets. Or I can be angry, or have any other reaction. Probably more appropriately I should do something about the situation.



But, if happiness is important to me, what I can do in these difficult times, is to be happy when there are things to be happy for, like the things I listed in my list. I can "chase" those things to get my dose of natural happiness for the day, and it would be better than pretending that I'm happy with an unstable financial situation.



I'm not happy WITH my current situation, but I can be naturally happy while I go THROUGH it due to other reasons, because my happiness is not dependant on my financial state or lack of my own home.



And that's my case for natural happiness vs synthetic happiness. It's unnecessary to be synthetically happy when you could be naturally happy and it feels much better :)

Jenny - posted on 05/05/2012

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Yes I have been disappointed with circumstances in my life. Im unhappy with my current circumstance, but dispite this, the things I wrote in the list above can happen and it makes me smile and I can still find happiness in them.



I do believe I would be even more happy in a better situtation. Not sure about "Perfect". What is perfect? I think that changes all the time. For me one of the things that would make my life perfect is if we'd finished building our house and were living in it right this minute instead of where we are renting. I'm pretty sure that would make me happy.



But even if I was living in my new house, if the moments in my day consisted of sadness more than happiness - more tears than laughter, then the situation will feel less than perfect, and I would probably say I was happier where I was before.



I guess the "perfect life situation" is all relative. You can have the perfect life situation, but if everything starts to fall apart around you it will no longer be perfect.



I also think materialistic things can make you happy. But so can non-tangible things, like being able to share your feelings with someone who reciprocates them. You need a whole combination of things to make you ultimatley happy. Matrialistic needs and wants met, emotional needs and wants met, spiritual needs and wants met, physical needs and wants met.



Bottom line, I say a perfect life situation is a significant aspect to finding happines, but it takes more than that to find it.

38 Comments

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Karla - posted on 05/07/2012

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Ah yes, the light at the end of the tunnel! ;-)

Jenny, I think you are very kind and thoughtful to your friend. She sounds a little like my daughter (grown daughter.) My daughter needs some help, but it's very hard to help her in a way she finds acceptable. Once when she was going through a very tough time I offered to do her dishes, and she thought I was telling her to do them. Once I figured the misunderstanding I was able to clarify and I did do her dishes. I can't help her in a real way right now... I mean... I can't seem to give her as much help as she needs.

I have mixed feelings on counselors, they never seem to help as much as I want them to. I still have hope though so I'll probably try again. Money is always a big issue with these things, counselors are very expensive even on a sliding scale. I wonder if the YWCA might be of some service; I know in some areas they have counselors and child care. - just a thought.

Keep looking for that synthetic happiness, better known as silver linings! (Doesn't silver lining sound better than synthetic happiness?)

Jenny - posted on 05/07/2012

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Thank you Karla. I like your deffinition of faking happiness through finding the silver lining. I get what you mean. Its a different way of looking at events, probably a better one, because it makes it feel less overwhelming when you can see the flip side.

Regards to my depression questions, i was genuinely trying to know what helps someone else in that situation. I have someone in my family that has been dealt some extremly hard cards in life and is very hard to comfort because they naturally feel deffensive when you try to talk about the situation directly. There have been times when i've been able to physically help this person and they were able to express their gratitude. But its very difficult to get close enough to this person to be able to know what you can physically help them with, they naturally distance themselves. I dont quite now how to get through without being afraid of offending them or forcing them to be around me when they would obviously rather be left alone.

I am dealing with difficult situations myself in my life and sometimes they do get me down enourmously. I fantasize about the idea of councelling, but i cant see how i would have the money for it or who would take care of my kids etc... As for meds, im very afraid of becoming dependant on them. I feel like im doing okay with out any meds, so i dont need to go down that path.

It helps to hear that im not alone. I cant wait to get out of the rut my husband and i are currently in. Here's to better days ahead!

Karla - posted on 05/07/2012

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Jenny, you ask if people can fake happiness. It depends, honestly if you have a lot to deal with it’s going to be hard to fake happiness. The way I think of “synthetic happiness” is looking for and finding the proverbial “silver lining” around the dark clouds.

My friend and I joke about this all the time. For instance, if your dog died the silver lining might be, “now I don’t have to buy dog food.” And depending on how much you loved that dog, this silver lining may or may not help.

So, there have been occasions when my car broke down and my silver lining is - at least it happened on the way home from work instead of on the way to work, at least my husband was home and could come help, and at least the repairs were $300 which is exactly what I have available, and no more. See, they are all lame, but they do help for some reason. If you can frame a difficult situation so it seems manageable it helps.

I also love to joke, depending on the severity of the situation I find joking and laughing helpful as long as others are receptive as well. It’s no fun to joke when my husband is changing a flat tire and is genuinely frustrated and angry, but later when we are on the road again I commence the joking.

”Has anybody been able to lift your spirits during these times, and how did they do it?”

That’s trickier. What I have learned to use when someone is down is empathetic listening. That is parroting back their difficulties, and naming an emotion that you believe they are feeling. This tool lets you friend know you are hearing them, and you have some understanding of how they are feeling. It’s a concrete way to show you care.

For instance, right now Jenny it sounds like you are grasping for solutions to your feelings of depression. You seem to be wondering if there are tools that you could implement to help yourself. And you’re not sure you are ready to ask the doctor about your feelings of depression. I know it’s very frustrating when you think other people have it figured out, but I want you to know that we all have times of despair; you are not alone. Seriously Jenny, you are not alone.

If you believe you cannot find the silver lining around these dark clouds in your life, I would strongly recommend talking to your doctor. Sometimes anti-depressants can be used to jump start happiness.

I have often felt depressed, but I was on anti-depressants just once. Sometimes I wish my doctor would keep me on them, but he has suggested other things to help my chemistry so that I feel better. Things like a healthy diet and exercising several times a week. I also am seriously contemplating going to a counselor for some additional help.

Jenny - posted on 05/06/2012

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That sounds very nice, what your Aunt did. I like that idea very much, just physically doing something instead of offering advice. Thank you :)

Jenny - posted on 05/06/2012

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"If you try to share how you feel they will give you "solutions" that don't help or think you are just an ungrateful complainer."

Has anybody been able to lift your spirits during these times, and how did they do it?

I've heard often from depressed people that they don't want solutions, so just want to know, what can you do as a freind to help someone going through this?

Janice - posted on 05/06/2012

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Yes you can fake being happy. I am much like Sharon. I have dealt with depression and anxiety on and off my whole life. While my overall feeling is sadness, I just don't discuss what makes me upset and when I'm around others I focus on what they are talking about or I talk about my kids.

When you suffer from depression you might not have 1 major rreally sad thing that happened its little things that have piled up that make you sad. Most people really don't understand. If you try to share how you feel they will give you "solutions" that don't help or think you are just an ungrateful complainer.

This is so true, Sharon, "it might not solve your problems or bring you that lovely inner feeling of happiness, but it helps ease the sorrow for a little while and stops us being enveloped by it or doing something drastic."



When I was working I could just throw myself into my work and not focus on being sad. Then I would cry in the car. Now that I am a SAHM I find it much harder to stay distracted from my feelings. Currently COM has become my distraction.

[deleted account]

Yes Karla B, that's just what I mean.

I think synthetic happiness can be created by doing the little things that can take our minds off our bigger troubles and bring a small, if temporary, smile to our faces.
Different things for different people. Even when I've been really down (I have suffered depression and still suffer mild anxiety) I find I get a temporary lift from going on a horse ride. Even though my big worries were still there when I got home and I couldn't bring myself to do the simple day to day tasks, I have had a reprieve from feeling so low.
For other people it may be going for a run, reading a good book or even a bit of shopping, going out for coffee... it might not solve your problems or bring you that lovely inner feeling of happiness, but it helps ease the sorrow for a little while and stops us being enveloped by it or doing something drastic.

Jenny - posted on 05/06/2012

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Can you fake it though? I know whenever I try to fake it I fail, usually end up in tears because I'm trying so hard to hide what I'm feeling. I haven't really been able to pull of the fake smile.

What would be your definition synthetic happiness? What does it actually look like?

Karla - posted on 05/06/2012

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Jenny,
I have found that there are times in my life when I am in despair over something I cannot control. At those time synthetic happiness helps me survive. Perhaps that's what Sharon means about "fake happiness probably stops us from losing the plot."

**Jackie** - posted on 05/05/2012

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LMAO MeMe, I wonder what your husband would do if he saw you sitting on the sofa sniffing sun tan lotion lol

Jenny, I LOVE road trips! I'm scared of large bodies of water so flying over them petrifies me, we normally drive everywhere we go. I love stocking up on unhealthy, greasy junk food, everyone picking their favorite CDs, packing up and loading the truck and hanging out and bonding on the way there. No television, no playstations, no fire calls, no work calls, just driving and singing and knowing that your vacation didn't even technically start yet!

Jenny - posted on 05/05/2012

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Things that make me happy:



-hearing my kids laughing their heads off

-hubby and I having a great conversation where he is doing most of the talking :)

-driving in the car on a long road, great music pumping, windows rolled down

-hanging out with a large group of people doing funny and silly things together that make us all laugh

-watching an awesome movie

-getting more back on my tax than expected

-having a 2 acre block, looking at the land and knowing its all ours (minus the mortgage!)

-seeing my kids having fun with other kids

-hearing my 3 year old talk my ear off when he's excited (he doesn't usually say much during the day, being a boy and all)

-my almost two year old girl talking to me like she's a lot older i.e when I'm cooking in the kitchen and she comes up to me and says "Whatchya doing mummy?"

-when either kid says somthing i've never heard them say before

-reconnecting with a long time friend I haven't seen in ages and having a good time

-having positive thoughts about myself without having to force them

-those moments where I truly don't care what others think

-doing something knowing it was entirely my decision for my own reasons

-taking action and it making a difference instead of wondering "what if"

-meeting someone new and automatically connecting with them like I'd known them for years



I guess if I sat here I could come up with loads more things, so I'll stop here. I know it's a fairly random list, but all of these things are guaranteed to make me smile in a way I can't stop. That to me is happiness, when you smile because you can't help it :)

Karla - posted on 05/05/2012

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In the lecture Dan Gilbert also said, "The Bard said everything best, of course, and he's making my point here but he's making it hyperbolically: "'Tis nothing good or bad / But thinking makes it so." It's nice poetry, but that can't exactly be right. Is there really nothing good or bad? Is it really the case that gall bladder surgery and a trip to Paris are just the same thing? That seems like a one-question IQ test. They can't be exactly the same.

Point being that even though we will look for a silver lining and attempt to make a bad situation good, there are plain old bad situations and we are affected by them.

Janice, sorry to hear you are feeling so low. I hope you find a way to improve your spirits. Sometimes people do it by adjusting their routines, sometimes a doctor or therapist can help. I'm hoping for the best for you. :)

Janice - posted on 05/04/2012

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I get really happy over little things.

- my daughter saying cute things

- watching my son learn to roll all over

- not forgetting stuff when I go shopping

- running on time

- hubby grabbing at me ;)

However,in general right now I am very unhappy. Happy moments are fleeting and in general I am quite miserable about my life right now. I try to be happy with the good things (I may not own a home but at least we do have a place to live, et cetera)but disappointment has been plentiful this past 15 months.



I'm not sure if anyone ever gets to a point where they have no more desires and are 100% happy all the time. But, I know that I would be happier than I am right now if I had a more "perfect life situation"

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 05/04/2012

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Ohhh, on the sun tanning lotion point. I do not suntan. I am a redhead and I would burn like an ash! However, I was in Walmart a few weeks ago, buying sunscreen for my son and I opened the tanning lotion (the Hawaiin kind - I think that is the brand name) and OMG, I almost died. It brought back so many memories of the beach (we go every summer - we have hundreds here) and I just HAD to buy a bottle. WTF, I am going to do with it? I have no idea. I think I will just sniff it every once in awhile. lol

Merry - posted on 05/04/2012

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Chocolate makes me really happy.
I'd like to say my kids make me happy, and they do-from time to time- but chocolate......it's a sure fire instant happiness :)
Sleep. Sleep makes me happy.
Being outside is like a drug to me as well. It's like I get all blissed out when I'm walking through a forest or a field.-as long as there isn't tons of bugs, or too humid out....
Also it's not in a bad way but money makes me happy. We live on practically no money so when I have some to spend I'm super excited to buy something's really useful, helpful, needed, or wanted for my kids or family. I get giddy over stuff like new cloth diapers, or an organic handmade wooden pull toy, or a new vacuum lol.
So money makes these things possible so it makes me happy :)

**Jackie** - posted on 05/04/2012

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lol yes. My friend sells candles and they are trying to come up with a sunscreen smelling candle. Some that I have smelled smell like beach sand and ass...not so much sunscreen.

Johnny - posted on 05/04/2012

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Jackie, it needs to be the scented stuff though (obviously, lol) but I agree totally. One of my co-workers has this hand cream that smells like sunscreen and even though it makes me sneeze, I love it when she uses it because I close my eyes and pretend I'm on the beach.

**Jackie** - posted on 05/04/2012

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OOOO you know what makes me happy? The smell of sun tan lotion. I'm not kidding...next time you're in a drug store, open up a bottle (I hope that's not illegal) and smell it....not inhale it like some crazed meth head but just smell it!

Sal - posted on 05/04/2012

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My fav saying is that fake happiness is better than genuine misery as they both beget more of the same so I guess I kind of get some of what this guy Was saying, what makes me happy, people appreciating what is in front of them,whether it is good people beautiful nature something great someone made or dne

[deleted account]

Johnny, I do that too. Pessimism can at times be a blessing because then you have even more reason to be happy when you end up wrong. Like underestimating our checks this week and totally miscalculating how much we have in savings, so we have an extra $120 after bills and shit, AND we have an extra hundred in savings cuz i can't fuxing add, hellz yeah...

Johnny - posted on 05/03/2012

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Oh, and my daughter and my husband and my family and my friends make me happy blah blah blah...

Johnny - posted on 05/03/2012

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Currently what makes me happy is getting extra sleep and passing gas. I look 5 months pregnant rather than 3 and it's all just hot air. It really is the simple things.

I'm also a negative optimist. I expect the worst possible outcome so that I'm pleased with whatever I get because it's almost always better than expected.

[deleted account]

Well generally speaking, I am happy. My husband and I love each other, I have beautiful, healthy children, and I live the lifestyle I have always wanted. I have had disappointments, mainly to do with personal goals. But the outcomes of those unfulfilled goals were superficial anyway and even if I had achieved them I would probably have not been satisfied any way. There will always be difficulties popping up and we are in the midst of some right now, but because of those first key points I have in my life, I am happy despite the challenges.

[deleted account]

what WOULD make me happy was if we didn't have a flea infestation anymore, that would be great...

what USUALLY makes me happy is being able to accomplish my goals. however, i often fail at this so these instances are few and far between.

what SHOULD be making me happy is that i have a happier marriage than some and that my daughter is healthy and that even though we don't always have extra money, at least we can pay our bills and we both have good jobs and have it set up so that we don't need a babysitter. i mean, that stuff does make me happy, but when i feel as though i am failing myself by not being able to accomplish what i set out to do, it just feels like i'm a failure and it's hard to see past that. then again, i have depression issues, so i'll probably always feel that way, whether i AM failing or not.

Karla - posted on 05/03/2012

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Meme " I am an over analyzer."
I hadn't noticed. ;-)

and
That's what makes Debating Mums! stay alive!!!!!

Karla - posted on 05/03/2012

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I think trying to make the best of a bad situation is a huge survival skill. It's almost impossible to have everything go the way we want it to go, so make the best of it, right?

I also think it's a skill for progress as well; don't be satisfied with the status quo - always strive for more or better.

So in reality, what makes us happy is the way we process our life, they way we think. The way we look at it and the way we choose to interpret it. I personally have a strong desire to be happy, I will even sing or force myself to smile to help create a happy chemistry in my body. (there have been studies, just saying.)

Wishing to win the lottery is all fine and good, but winning it probably wouldn't make me more happy; according to studies anyway, I wouldn't mind testing the theory.

Another random thought:
Is this why arranged marriages work? (Making the best of it?)

Jodi - posted on 05/03/2012

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"Do you believe you would be more happy in a perfect life situation?" No...we're human, it's drilled into us that "the grass is always greener on the other side." We WILL find something wrong...even in a perfect situation, when we have everything we want...we find something new to desire. It's just human nature.

My family makes me happy, my hubby, my kids, my sisters, my parents, and my closest friends. I strive to make concious choices that will enable me to remain happy, and not cause drama...I HATE drama! lol But of course I've been dissapointed with happenings in life, but I'm still happy. I wish my husband wouldn't have switched career goals when we was almost done with training to be a commercial pilot...we could be making lots of money...but I'm glad he's doing what he truly loves instead of something he only THOUGHT he loved. Dissapointment is a key factor in happiness IMO...it teaches to appreciate what we DO have, to appreciate the good things that HAVE happened. Without dissapointment, our ideals of what happiness and what makes us happy would be seriously skewed, and I can't imagine in a good way.

I'm happy, and I choose to be so in some situations, or despite some situations as it may be, but many things in my life make me happy with no effort on my part.

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 05/03/2012

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Let's see. What makes me happy is my Husband and children. Also, how far I have come in my life, from literally nothing to everything I could ask for and more.



I have definitely had disappointment in my life but I am a true believer that absolutely everything happens for a reason. We just don't always know what the reason is, either at the time or perhaps never. During my disappointments, I always try my hardest to look at the brighter side of it. If there seems to be no brighter side, I make one. I do this by learning about the experience and ensuring I accept it and move on. If I didn't, I would be stuck, I would never move forward. I always look at the good things in my life and dwell on those, rather than on any disappointments. I have often told myself, "well that blows the big one but, I learnt this for next time".



I would never ever be happy with a perfect life situation (perfect as in everything is always glorious). I truly enjoy and yearn for inner growth. This would be impossible if I had not had any disappointments in my life. I really enjoy getting to know myself and the aspects of my life that require change. This makes me a better person for my family and myself. For me, a disappointment puts me back in prospective. It often shows me what I have and how I am very fortunate to have it all. If I lived a perfect life, I would never really know what "real" life is about. To me it is about growth and acceptance.



However, in my opinion I do have a perfect life. My perception of a perfect life includes disappointments. It includes hardships but most of all it includes laughter, commitment and tons of love. ;)



BTW- I know I over exaggerate my worries. I more times than not, find my worries to work themselves out, to the point that they truly were a very minuscule issue, compared to how I originally viewed it. I am an over analyzer. I can analyze a situation until I can't think about it anymore and have no choice but to move on. However, this is an important process for me. It is what puts everything in perspective and helps me grow and learn.



I also agree that we have the choice to what we experience and when making a choice, it is important to think of what it is we are seeking, out of that experience.

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