Happiness makes a mockery of us. That new dress, demolishing that doughnut, the risky relationship that promised so much but delivered so little in the long run. The more we seek these short-lived pleasures the less impact they seem to have, the more fleeting the sensation of happiness.
Happiness can seem so temporary and it can be hard to hang on to those good feelings. Perhaps it is the disconnect between our humanity and material objects or the lack of real satisfaction derived from self-serving acts.
Dr Thomas Gilovich puts it down to adaptation. ‘One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,’ he says. This is the concept that we human beings adjust quickly to the novelty of a new purchase. But we can build a life enriched by a more enduring happiness. Here are five ways to get started:
1 Choose varying experiences over material gain. Dr Thomas Gilovich, along with a team from Cornell University, found longer-lasting happiness can be achieved through new experiences as opposed to by material gain.
This means engaging in experiences such as travelling, going to see live music or trying different activities. Adding variety maintains our interest and potential for self-development therefore making ‘adaptation’ all that much harder.
2 Express gratitude. ‘Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.’ – Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
Appreciating what we have and thinking positively has been strongly linked to sustainable happiness. Expressing gratitude not only improves our state of mind but positively affects those around us strengthening our relationships, too.
3 Foster authentic connections. Real, life-enhancing connections and finding harmony with others are key to our happiness. Whether it is with partners, family, kids, community or friends, developing close bonds provide a sense of belonging and can even lengthen our lives* and protect us against disease*.
So cultivate relationships based on shared ideas, mutual support and love and see how you flourish.
4 Be compassionate. Giving to others is not only an act of kindness but has been proven to contribute to our own well-being and health*. Helping others nurtures connections and strengthens communities. Focusing on the greater good and others gives our lives meaning and purpose which, in turn, feeds our happiness.
5 Live with purpose. Identifying and prioritising what matters to us and acting in a way congruent with those values is living with a sense of purpose. Again, this sense of purpose suggests a responsibility for something greater than ourselves. This can give us direction, determination and motivate us – inspiring true happiness.