"In an interesting study from the 1970s, researchers studied the happiness levels of two different groups of people: lottery winners and accident victims. The surprising result of the study was that, once the initial elation of winning the lottery and shock of the accident wore off, both groups returned to their original levels of happiness. Over the long-term, these drastically different external events—one seemingly positive and the other negative—had no appreciable impact on happiness." -Joshua Becker from his blog Becoming Minimalist
I was shocked for a moment after reading this quote. Really? Not necessarily that winning the lottery didn’t make people happier in the long run, but that accident victims also returned to the same level of happiness they had before the accident?
Then I started thinking about people I know. Some seem to be relatively happy no matter what happens to them. Others can find some reason to be unhappy, or at least to be discontented with the smallest of things in their lives. (Starbucks didn’t make their coffee to their EXACT specifications, for example, and they complain and moan about it for hours, long after the coffee’s gone.)
I’m sure you know people like that. Maybe you are one of those people…
So, are some people just born grumps? Maybe some people are wired to be more happy and others not? There is some research to show that some people seem more affected by negative things in their environment than others. But does that necessarily mean they are doomed to be unhappy from birth?
Or, maybe happiness is more of a habit? Routines help us get on in our busy lives. We do many things on auto pilot so we don’t have to think about them. It makes us more efficient when we can do our chores and routines for hygiene etc. without making constant decisions every day about just how to do them. Could happiness be like that? Like a good habit we practice until it just comes naturally to us every day?
Might happiness be a skill we can acquire? Could it be like going to the same grocery store enough times until you know exactly where those items you need are, and nailing that quick visit in ten minutes? Score!! Wouldn’t that be awesome?
What if happiness is a habit we can learn? Then complaining, looking for the wrong in things and in people could also be a habit, part of our daily routine. Wouldn’t that be a hard habit to kick? If we even decided we wanted to?
Read my next post to get my thoughts on these questions and how to turn things around!
- Autumn Starks, LCSW (about)
Founder and Psychotherapist, Starks Therapy Group
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