Friday, December 14, 2012

the happystuff is partly volitional

 http://thinkpositive30.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/happysad.jpg

it really annoys me, somewhat, how one of my co-workers tends to peg her happiness on obtaining "stuff." my friend and former co-worker who extracted that unfortunate promise from me that started this blog had mentioned to her that i had a "lovely 1920-something Limoges dessert set" and she keeps pestering me to consider selling it to her. i bought it because i like it.....it was pretty. i'm like some birds, easily distracted by pretty colours and bits of tinsel from time to time. anyhoo.......i'm almost tempted to unload the set on her just to get her to shut up. sad thing is, this gal has to have the latest car, and is always on the look out for a new purse...........and it makes her happy for a brief moment....like maybe a head rush?? but she quickly becomes dissatisfied and has to find something else to acquire. a shopping addiction?? maybe........
my first ex-husband was very conscious of physical objects as status symbols and he simply could not be reasoned with......this presented many small occassions of conflict for us because about most things i can't really seem to care......he kept trying to draw attention to a new watch he'd bought for about 3 days before i noticed and asked "'zat a new watch??" he kind of exploded.....i thought it pretty but a watch is pretty much a watch to me.....it was some fine European brand that cost over $8,000. he was completely displeased with my reaction....which was less than enthusiastic. i mean....it's just a watch and there are many functional timepieces available at a fraction of the cost. he considered it an example of how i wasn't attentive to him and how i really didn't "see" him. i told him i could draw a map of every freckle, hair, scar, and mole on his entire body and i thought seeing HIM was more important that seeing what he chose to wear from one day to the next. (*we don't need to go into my reaction to his paying $200 for a basic white t-shirt from some designer*). anyhoo......
i started thinking of this stuff when i heard someone at work say "i'd be soooo happy if i won that lottery." and several talk about how happy they'd become if they hit the jackpot at the casino.......they speak as if suddenly a new door into lasting happiness opens. tho' experience shows us that despite changes in fortune we become "used" to our new circumstance and return to or normal level of happiness through a process called hedonic adaptation. now, scientific studies show that about 50 percent of a person's happiness seems to be determined by some kind of genetic setpoint(studies of twins and adoptees). Circumstances seem to account for about 10 percent of happiness. the question is.......what accounts for the remaining 40 percent??? now, that's a mystery. a leading researcher on happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky at UC-Riverside, believes that " when you take away genes and circumstances, what is left besides error must be "intentional activity," mental and behavioral strategies that counteract (hedonic) adaptation's downward pull." so, it seems that there is something volitional to happiness. just as there is something volitional in loving someone, there just might be a role for free will and choice in determining one's own happiness. but, it is probably something that takes lots of discipline and work to make happiness something like a good habit