Scientists who study happiness report that people tend to have a base level of happiness
at which they typically operate. This base level can be influenced either up or down by events such as winning the lottery or suffering a major illness, but fairly quickly people return to their base levels despite their circumstances. In other words, winning the lottery can cause a rush of excited feelings, but it does not affect a person’s happiness in the long term.
Indeed, lots of people live their lives thinking, I’ll be happy when _____. They fill in the
blank with: when I get a new job; when I find a nice partner; when I move into a bigger house; etc. Then of course, when they do achieve those things, they find that the happiness they had anticipated is fleeting. For the first few weeks, the new job is fantastic, but then it starts to get a little tiresome and the commute is arduous. The new partner is great initially, but then some disagreements and difficulties mar the perfection of the relationship. Having so much space in the new house feels luxurious, but the effort to keep the place up is exhausting and expensive. When people are faced with the awareness that their anticipated happiness has not materialized in the way they expected it to, they often pick another point in the future on which to pin their hopes for lasting joy, and the cycle repeats itself.
Does this mean we are stuck with our current paltry base level of happiness? Buddha
teaches that people misunderstand the source of happiness, so it is no wonder that they look for it in places where it is not to be found and then cannot actually improve the quality of their lives. Once we learn the real source of happiness, we can immediately begin to train in how to tap into that source and thus we can genuinely move the needle.
Check out this video from Gen Zamling for some tips on how to reliably increase your happiness. And join us for one of our The Power to Be Happy talks this Fall to learn more!