After reading Dr. Brooks and Dr. Stephens posts of the theme of happiness, I also came across a recent study from the University of California, Riverside that surveyed individuals about their happiness. According to previous research, an individual’s happiness can increase after major life changes, such as starting a new romantic relationship, but over time happiness tends to return to a “base” level. The current research describes a model to help people maintain higher levels of happiness derived from beneficial changes. The model includes two major components: the need to keep having new and positive life-changing experiences and the need to keep appreciating what you already have and not want more too soon.
I always enjoy reviewing studies and the current literature and then putting my own twist on it. After all, everyone will have their own path to pursuing their own happiness. However, the model does leave room for individuality of happiness and this is key. For instance, what is fun to you, may not be fun to me and the same goes for what an individual appreciates. So, with this in mind, it may be a helpful exercise to explore various ways that you can keep having new experiences and adventures. This could be a list of new hobbies, sports, outdoor activities, and of course, entertainment (music, movies, books, etc). These experiences can be experienced over and over through photographs or journaling to bring back those happy memories.
We could also benefit from making a list of all the things that we need to appreciate that we have in our lives to fulfill the second part of the model. It is important to recognize all the good things/people/experiences that we have in our lives. Sometimes writing out a list and creating something tangible can allow you to see how much you appreciate. This can really change your perspective, as well as your mood. So, the next time you feel like pursuing happiness try experiencing something new and then appreciating the happiness that it brought to your life!
Reference: K. M. Sheldon, S. Lyubomirsky. The Challenge of Staying Happier: Testing the Hedonic Adaptation Prevention Model. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2012; 38 (5): 670