Feeling down? Four ways to regain happiness

Experiences in which we enjoy what's happening in the moment have a more lasting effect on our overall happiness

By Tara Well (Mind Reader)

Published: Tue 27 Jun 2017, 9:58 PM

Last updated: Wed 28 Jun 2017, 12:03 AM

When we believe that there's something we must have to be happy and fulfilled, we can set ourselves up for disappointment. Though unpleasant, our experiences of disappointment provide valuable information about our beliefs about ourselves, other people, and what will make us truly happy. We all deal with disappointments. As an emotion, researchers describe disappointment as a form of sadness - a feeling of loss, an uncomfortable space (or a painful gap) between our expectations and reality. Next time you feel disappointment, ask yourself these four questions to get back on track to happiness.
What?: Exposure to media messages teaches us to associate happiness with certain things (like expensive objects, beautiful people, and important titles). So we can develop some pretty fixed ideas on what will make us happy, and eventually train our minds to believe that we'll only be happy if we get those things. We mistakenly believe that it's the thing that is going to make us happy and when we don't get it, we're disappointed. Researchers have found that there's no guarantee that if you get the things you want you'll be happy - in fact, there's quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. People's satisfaction with things is very short lived. Experiences in which we enjoy what's happening in the moment have a much more lasting effect on our overall happiness.
Who?: A common misconception is believing if we meet "the one" that everything else in our lives will fall into place and we'll live happily ever after.
We learn to associate a small number of positive personal attributes with many others, it's called the halo effect. For instance, if we meet someone who's tall and good looking, we're then more likely to believe that the person has a number of other positive qualities but all we really know about the person is he is tall and good looking. We may be profoundly disappointed when that person we put our hopes on doesn't meet our expectations. The key is knowing how you want to feel in a relationship and to focus on that. It's a simple shift in intention that can save a social encounter from the clutches of disappointment.
When?: Our expectations about when things should happen are influenced by social norms. We often gauge our success based on how well our peers are doing; this is called social comparison. We compare ourselves with those who have the same goals and are similar in age and background. Social media can fuel social comparisons. The key again is remembering how you want to feel - it's unrealistic to think that if you're suffering along every step of the way toward your goal that you're going to be in a state of bliss once you finally do achieve it.
How?: Perhaps the most difficult expectation to relinquish is how. Once we have a desire, we often immediately began to think of ways to go after it. If we can't think of any good ways to get what we want, we may simply give up right then and there - and feel disappointed. In this case, it's important to distinguish between the means and ends. That is, remembering what we need to do to get what we want may be different from the end result. Abraham Maslow identified one characteristic of self-actualised people as an uncanny ability to distinguish between means and ends. They're able to keep an eye on what they truly want and stay open to various ways that it can come about at the same time.
Remember the famous quote by Rumi, "What you're seeking is seeking you." Consider being open to yet unknown possibilities.
- Psychology Today
Tara Well, Ph.D., is a professor in the department of psychology at Barnard College of Columbia University

More news from OPINION
KT Long Read: Watch this space


KT Long Read: Watch this space

Major disruptions in the global space industry, including in India that recently liberalised the sector, are heralding an emergence of a whole new world: ramifications will be wide-ranging, high-yielding — and ultimately benefit humanity

Opinion1 week ago