Turns out, not so much. A study published in 1978 observed lottery winners and also victims of accidental paralysis. Of course, at first, the winners were overjoyed, and the victims were suffering. But after a time, the winners’ day-to-day life was actually a little LESS happy than before the event (what other pleasure can compare to that one big thrill?), and the victims reported being somewhat happier than before (possibly gratitude for having survived?).
We seem to have a “set point” in our overall state of happiness. There may be spikes of excitement and pleasure (getting that big promotion, winning the game…) but then we rather quickly settle back into that familiar place. If that place is depressive, are you stuck there?
There are ways to shift that set point in your happiness. They all require some effort and some decision-making, and a fair amount of practice, but I think they’re well worth the investment.
Here are 5 ways to change your outlook on things:
1. Learn how to handle disappointment.
No one likes to be disappointed. In fact, there are many people who practice the “don’t get your hopes up” way of trying to avoid it.
When you don’t let yourself imagine a greater future, though, you are robbing yourself of one of our great pleasures. A 2010 study demonstrated that the planning of a vacation was the most enjoyable part of it. No vacation can fulfill all the hopes we put into it. We’re bound to be disappointed, at least a little.
And can you bear to be disappointed? Yes. Remember that it’s only a feeling and that feelings pass.
In the case of the vacation, it’s likely the disappointments are small. If you can stand life being imperfect, and stand having a feeling, you can enjoy your fantasies.