Just Worry :-( to Be Happy :-)
One of the most common answers when asked: “What do you want in life?” is “I just want to be happy”. Loud and clear, indeed.
But when questioned about the strategy to reach the real happiness, the “How”, then the majority of the people start listing set of “things”, pretty much external to themselves (and to anybody else): a better car, a beautiful house, another (perfect) wife, and so on. So, here the goal, the final solution to a state of unhappiness, easy peasy: just get what you want, you desire, and Happiness will be reached. At least, this is true in pure theory.
Hedonic Adaptation: what’s that?
There is a psychological phenomenon that can be called “Hedonic adaptation” something like a “vicious treadmill” and it works like this:
You WANT something (the Thing, it can be a physical object or an intangible element, a condition, status and so on), that is causing your “Pain” and your status of perennial “Non-Happiness”.
You then can WORK for it (if you are committed and you are not willing to live a life of constant pain and suffering…)
You OBTAIN that marvellous, awesome, finally reached Thing: Yes, you really got it! it’s finally yours! You DID REACH your GOAL, eventually! Time to party and to be finally HAPPY!…..
…or it’s really not what you were expecting?
Welcome to the treadmill (or LOOP): you finally start to GET USED to the Thing you have. To the new status, the new condition, the new gadget or toy. And sooner or later you find yourself no longer a happy person.
You turn then back again into the LOOP, just finding yourself wanting the NEW THING…to be Happy…again.
So, what’s the strategy to jump off the treadmill?
The Gap Theory of Happiness
There are different theories about the gap, including references to willpower and emotional intelligence. To recap the above, the typical strategy applied by the majority of the people is:
You can identify there is a GAP between your ACTUAL situation and your FUTURE SELF (status/condition etc.).
Actually, you realize that the GAP IS the reason of your PAIN and status of NON-HAPPINESS.
So you realize that only when the GAP will be FILLED you then would be able to reach true happiness. And this is when the LOOP starts spinning.
But we are smarter now (aren’t we?) so we are aware that this strategy is NOT EFFECTIVE, (bringing us to jump straight into the LOOP): frankly speaking, we all want and desire more and more (all that with the contribution of consumerism, cookies and web surfing but this is for another story indeed…).
So, here a possible ALTERNATIVE STRATEGY coming straight from the Stoicism philosophy, ready to get you off the hedonic treadmill: start LOVING the LIFE you are ALREADY LIVING. Look at the things you have right NOW. Look at yourself from the outside, feeling GRATITUDE for what you have.
The GAP will be STILL THERE and will be not removed entirely, but you will be able to REDUCE it to its minimum until it will be finally NOT SO IMPORTANT to you.
Instead of working to get the things you don’t have, let’s start WANTING the THINGS you ALREADY HAVE.
It’s simple like that. But it’s not easy as it seems. Indeed, it’s not easy at all. At least it’s not COMFORTABLE.
When they say “Get out of your Comfort Zone”….
This concept could be universally applicable: to the millionaire, living on a more expensive life (and related treadmill), but still unsatisfied (thus unhappy) of the model of his/her car, thinking to change it for the newer model, but it retains its validness for the more “common” person too.
The technique stated above is called Negative Visualization, and it’s surprisingly effective. Let’s give it a try.
Let’s NOW focus on something that you consider as IMPORTANT in your life: it can be connected to your CAREER, JOB, FINANCE, but also FAMILY, LOVE, FRIENDS and so on: think out of anything that, when in your mind, makes you JOYFUL and RELAXED, with no sense of pain or discomfort at all.
Here the (hardest) second step: imagine NOW this thing suddenly DISAPPEARING from your life. Yes, a snap of your finger and…gone, FOREVER. Go deeper into VISUALIZING your NEW life condition right NOW.
You now may feel a level of DISCOMFORT. It’s perfectly normal. You take care of SOMETHING or SOMEONE, you do have FEELINGS indeed, so things like a family member suddenly losing his/her life, your spouse filing divorce and leaving with another lover, losing your job through a letter on your desk..you got the point.
…FEEL it, with a good amount of DETAILS…
…BE IMMERGED in it...
But just for a FEW SECONDS MORE...
Back to your NEW (or OLD?) life
Now you are BACK, here, in the PRESENT MOMENT. You are back to your “ordinary” life, the one you have been always living, wishing and desiring things to buy or goals to reach to be happy. But now you can see it with NEW EYES and a brand new perspective.
Paradoxically, the previous “cathartic visualization” could give you the realization that what you CURRENTLY have is important, that you have it NOW, in front of your eyes, and it’s now time to ENJOY it fully, right HERE, right NOW.
For instance: go back to your kids and PLAY JOYFULLY with them, with PRESENCE and ATTENTION, because they are there with you NOW.
Or go and kiss your partner, finally manifesting feelings openly and, why not, tell him/her that compliment you always wanted to share but (for many reasons) you never did. Until NOW.
The technique described here is generally applicable to all levels of existence, because, at all levels, people tend to WISH and DESIRE external events or things (i.e. we love to jump onto the treadmill), without really APPRECIATING fully the PRESENT MOMENT.
Just remember one last thing: your CURRENT life and CONDITION could be worst (even much worst than it is). So let’s VISUALIZE the NEGATIVE, to ENJOY and be GRATEFUL for the REALITY in which we are LIVING.
The content of my articles represents only my opinion or view. This particular was inspired by a story from William B.Irvine https://www.williambirvine.com/ on Waking Up (I’m not affiliated in any way or form)