Issue 5 of Hacking Your Happiness
In our previous session together we learned a lot about the power of experiences.
We found out that focusing on small life events would allow us to find more happiness than focusing on big lifestyle changes. However, just making sure you schedule more little events into your week isn't a surefire method for long-term happiness either.
In fact there are two things that can wrong with this plan of action and both of these problems are caused by our pesky but sometimes useful psychological immune system.
The first problem is that people often stick to what they know when it comes to events. If you ask people to schedule positive events into their week they will usually find a way to make it into a routine.
They will end up going to the same place for the same experience because we humans love to have certainty in our lives. And while certainty is great to have for things like food and shelter, it’s terrible when looking for events to increase our well-being.
This is because we adapt to having that event in our life as soon as it becomes certain and our levels of day to day happiness begin heading back to baseline.
So just mix up events or make sure to throw some random ones in there now and again, right? Unfortunately it's not that simple because of problem number 2.
According to research, as soon as we know even the details about an upcoming event we start to make sense of that event and adapt to it.
That means in planning for your events, doing your research on the activities, you’re actually undermining the happiness you stand to gain from them. And the more knowledge you have going into the event, the more your happiness is undermined by your pre-adaptation.
Essentially, your psychological immune system is building a simulation in your head about the upcoming event with the information you are given in an attempt to blunt the emotional impact it has on you.
Again, this was once a useful tool for survival and is the reason we love detailed stories (especially cautionary tales), so don’t hate on your hardwiring for being such a troublemaker - just stick around and you’ll learn to work around it.
Takeaways and Reflections:
1) Events are great for happiness, but sticking to the same ones won’t work long term.
Do you currently schedule time in your week for pure enjoyment? If you do, have you made it into a routine or are some aspects out of your control?
2) That ‘out of your control’ factor may be useful as we learned that more knowledge about an event leads to being impacted less by that very event.
Does not being certain about something make you uncomfortable or excited? Do you often seek out information about experiences before acting on them?
P.S. You won’t want to miss out on this next (and last) lesson, trust me!