Optimism and Happiness Explained: How-To Change your Life for the Better
Pooh is Happy, Be Like Pooh-Bear
Take this Test, Don’t worry, it’s not too hard...
On a long-term level, what is the better future. What would make you happier and more fulfilled. What would make your life better-
- Winning the lottery; hundreds of millions of dollars
- Being cursed- a paraplegic
The answer may seem incredibly obvious... mind-numbingly obvious in fact. The study listed below though, suggests otherwise. It is proven that after a year of both events the happiness levels of a lottery winner and that of a paraplegic are completely the same. They are equal. If you don’t believe me, check out the study below.
I got this from the following study http://education.ucsb.edu/janeconoley/ed197/documents/brickman_lotterywinnersandaccidentvictims.pdf
Keep reading if you’re interested. Especially, if you didn’t answer correctly.
Test Time is Over and the Results are in
99% of people are going to get that test wrong
I don’t blame you. In fact, when I read that study, I said the same thing. Why, in the world... would I rather be paraplegic than win the lottery? Well, that’s not actually the point. In fact, that’s exactly what I don’t want for you. I want you to understand that you make your own happiness. You make those feelings for yourself and whether you are paraplegic or a newly sainted lottery winner- your happiness depends on you! I want to help you achieve optimal happiness by making you understand how happiness works. Keep reading if you want to be happy or at least understand how to get there.
There’s something called impact bias. Impact bias is the tendency for individuals to overestimate or mistakenly predict the effect (impact) an event will have on your future and life. This has a lot to do with your emotions due to the fact that we are very emotional creatures. Your emotions can cloud you and make you think things that you wouldn’t think otherwise.
It is a proven fact that major life traumas. Huge, unchangeable events that cause severe life trauma to an individual go away... after a mere three months. Now, I’m not talking about the event- the pain and suffering and loss or change that resulted. I am talking about the effect it has on your happiness. Remember, this is a proven study and my interpretation is that we all go through the initial trauma. The initial pain and hurt and it is in this shattered state that we are unhappy. It is during these hours, days, weeks, months in which we are not going to be molded. We are rock solidly, adamant on our unhappiness. There is no changing that we will be depressed and sad during this three month window. It is after this- when we have reached a point of potential change. You can’t go on being unhappy your life. I mean, you can. You undoubtably can, but you will eventually become unsatisfied with this state of being. It is similar to becoming bored with a game or any other activity, but in any case you will end up with the same net result. You will want to make a change. That leads us to the next section.
Dan Gilbert: Why are we happy? Why aren't we happy?
You CAN make your Own Happiness
Psychologist Dan Gilbert’s famous TED talk gives us the reason for these conclusions as our human brain’s ability to replicate a past experience. This ability to repeat something that you have felt before is the reason you can “synthesize” happiness. Who knows, with the knowledge of something like this I would not be surprised if we have bottled this emotion. Wouldn’t that be something? Anyway, during the talk, Dan Gilbert states how our brain has been growing. It has taken quite the growth spurt- in a mere 2 million years my favorite body part has grown to three times the size it was then. It has added a frontal lobe and the all important prefrontal cortex.
This very complex, and important piece of us is a Psychological Immune System. It regulates our infinitely complex series of processes that make us the sentient creatures we are. It employs subconscious methods which identify and destroy negative thought and encourage positive thoughts. Crazy right? I think that you can take, for example, a very young baby who has been traumatized in some way. At that age, their brain is not developed enough to say, “That just happened and now I’m going to be wrecked for life”. This is because of the prefrontal cortex. This part of our brain says, “No, I’m going to destroy that memory, that thought and in doing so encourage you to be happy”. Now, the prefrontal cortex doesn’t literally destroy this part of our brain, but it does suppress it and it is easy to imagine how at a young age negative experiences are more easily suppressed.
As we age, we focus more and more on the past and future. We gain the blessing or curse of awareness. You can remember the stupid thing you said on your last date and it’s easy to beat yourself up about that. You can also worry about the future and how you aren’t prepared for that exam tomorrow. When you are a baby you have innocence and our prefrontal cortex preserves that up to the point when we really gain awareness.
So, what am I saying? That you are hopeless now that you have lost your childhood innocence? No! Of course not!
I want you to try to be, for a day, optimistic. I want you to take problems and make them into an opportunity. Take, for example, this quote.
"A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of opportunities. An optimist is one who makes opportunities out of difficulties." ~Harry S. Truman
I believe that you will find yourself feeling more happy. You need to do your best to hold on to those good feelings. They are your rewards for helping your prefrontal cortex do its job. Every time you help yourself suppress a bad feeling and focus on a good one you are helping along natural processes of your body. I know, you can’t always just shove your problems aside, but doing so sometimes and trying not to focus on the little things and instead looking at the big picture... I think you can help yourself lead a better life. You don’t want to live a life on a diet made up of negative thought. Don’t be a pessimist who lives to find the bad in the world. Instead, don’t you want to be an optimist? Someone who people look at go, “What a wonderful person”. You won’t just find yourself happier, you will find those around you happier. You will be a beaming ray of light that brightens up those around you. So, don’t take my word for it. Try it. For a day I want you to try, really consciously try to be happier. You have nothing to lose- nada. It may just change your life and if not... go back to your old life. I am not a guru. I am not an expert. I am just a guy with an honest opinion that I feel needs to be shared with people like you. I’ve gone through it all: heartbreak, love, sadness, happiness, success, failure. Everything, to some degree or another I have experienced and over my life I have found that sometimes letting something go in order to focus on something else that makes me happy is a good thing, not a bad thing. Just because you don’t constantly think about and hurt yourself over a past event, doesn’t mean you are saying it never happened. You are just moving on. You are allowing yourself to be happier and live a more fulfilled existence on this beautiful planet. No matter what you end up doing, I hope this has helped you in some way. I want to make this a better world and maybe this will help me to do that- helping you. So, please, be happy. Smile, laugh and be as care free as we, as human beings, can be.