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How Long Can Humans Be Happy?

Humans can sustain the feeling of happiness only for certain periods of time before returning to a base state, sometimes called a "hedonic set point." Different people's set points are at different levels, with some people naturally having more optimistic or more pessimistic set points. Repeated crises can depress people's natural set points, but people generally return to the same set point even after experiencing extreme hardship or something extremely good.

More on happiness:

  • The idea of what happiness actually is has changed drastically over the years. For instance, in Homeric literature, the idea of happiness was pure luck. In the Classical age, it was virtue, and during the Enlightenment, it was pleasure.

  • Although personal satisfaction does go up a little with an increase in income, materialism has a very depressing effect on happiness. In studies, people who agree with statements such as "I buy things just because I want them" tend to be more paranoid, depressed, narcissistic and dissatisfied with life than others.

  • Consciously trying to be happy tends to backfire. A study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science had participants read an article with tips about how to be happier, then follow one of the tips to see whether it worked. People who followed the tips felt more depressed afterward because they concentrated too hard on bettering their mood rather than letting it happen naturally, and they felt let down when they didn't feel as happy as they expected to feel.

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Discuss this Article

anon223033
Post 2

The best way to increase happiness is to focus on increasing the happiness of others.

anon223024
Post 1

If people realized that life has its ups and downs and that everyone's idea of a happiness state is different than any other persons, there would be less need for social worker therapists.

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