Paper Example on Happiness: A Destination or an Ongoing Pursuit

Published: 2023-01-18
Paper Example on Happiness: A Destination or an Ongoing Pursuit
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Happiness
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1875 words
16 min read

Humans have a long historical record of seeking the key to happiness, whether it is internally or externally. In the book The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt (2006) talks about Buddhism and Stoicism teachings that happiness comes from within (p. 82). In the same weight, he also discusses the book Luxury Fever in which he quotes, "Frank questions why people are so devoted to spending money on luxuries and other goods" (p. 99). Either way, there are mounds of research and suggestions on how to obtain happiness. The Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans are some early cultures that lived with the extreme values of external happiness. The Eastern culture brought internal values to find happiness to the forefront. As Haidt (2006) points out recent research in psychology suggest that some historical figures approach may have taken things too far (p. 82). Haidt (2006) also states that, "we surround ourselves with goals, hopes, and expectations, and then feel pleasure and pain in relation to our progress" (p. 86).

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In the discussion of how the attributes I just mentioned affect pleasure and pain, one noteworthy topic is the adaptive principle. Imagine losing a loved one, people naturally believe they will never smile again. Now imagine you worked so hard to pay off your credit card debt and you finally did it, your debt free. Naturally people think they will finally be happier than they were before being in debt. Haidt (2007) continues, that it doesn't really matter one situation or the other you're likely to adapt to it. The hedonic treadmill derived from the adaptive principle, that no matter how hard we strive our happiness level does not move far from our own individual set point. On one hand, the hedonic treadmill could mean that no matter how hard we work to be happy we will adapt to that temporary bliss and be on a never-ending pursuit. On the other had because we have a natural set point the hedonic treadmill could mean that we will always be happy just not from the same source. According to the article Recent research on happiness suggest that due to our happiness set point, circumstances good or bad our happiness set point remain constant over time (Headey 2006).

Richard Lucas writing in 2007 Current Directions in Psychological Science article, makes a compelling argument that long-term happiness does change. He concludes that life events do have large and lasting effects on your level of happiness. Research by Norrish & Vella-Brodrick (2007) agree that the happiness set point complicates increased happiness but believe that interventions aimed at fostering strengths and virtues can increase happiness. In the past psychology focused on mental illness, pathology, and dysfunction Myers (2000) so it's good to hear that psychological research for happiness and positive aspects of human experience has gained momentum. There will be some time until researchers can come up with the perfect equivalent to the DSM for strengths and abilities. Lucus (2007) makes the claim that the findings of certain research are weak associations to adaptation theories because adaptation is not directly observed. Associations between life circumstances and subjective well-being only provide suggestive evidence on how people adapt over time Lucus (2007). Although Norrish & Vella-Brodrick (2007) find that fostering strength and virtues can increase happiness, they also speak of flaws in some of the current research. They question whether the measurement of happiness can occur with scientific thoroughness. To clear up any misinterpretation of the meaning of happiness Norrish & Vella-Brodrick (2007) clearly define the terms of happiness they are using. One example they point out is that often the terms happiness and subjective well-being have been used interchangeably. Psychologist pioneering the scientific study of happiness proposed the term subjective well-being (SWB; Diener, 1984). Modern psychologist perhaps cannot hope to define happiness to everyone's satisfaction, Kesebir & Diener (2008). In their article, they are also in grievance that defining happiness is difficult but for science to progress there must be clearly defined and operationalized concept. Like Lucus, Kesebir & Diener (2008) has issues with how participants' subjective well-being are being measured. They point out that people may or may not be the best judges at self-reporting their own happiness.

As established throughout this paper happiness can be described in many different way and means something different to many different people. Due to difficulty of defining happiness, Pawel Chrostek in a 2014 study, An Empirical Investigation into the Determinants and Persistence of Happiness and Life Evaluation, he made a distinction between temporary and permanent in determinants of well-being. In his study as the other sources I previously mentioned found that due to our set-point, happiness is only temporarily affected by determinants and permanently affected in one's overall life evaluation. He also found that a person's employment status, health and income had a closely related role in changing a person's happiness, but again the relationship of life evaluation overall were no major changes. When it came to a person's ties to a religion and a change in the number of friends, the study found a significant correlation in the results of one's well-being. Another interesting result found in this study was the correlation with a person's current and future well-being. The participants in the study that started off happier increased their probability of happiness in the future.

All this information is important to everyone`s well-being. Psychologist have always looked at a person's negative problems and tried figuring out how to get them back into a normal state. It's helpful to know the positive aspects in our life that could be improved or maintained for improved well-being and grater fulfillment of one's life. The more we know about how we individually adapt to situations the less likely we will be stuck in a state of dysfunction or at the least knowing that whatever dysfunction or setback statistically does not to appear to be lifelong. On the other end knowing that misguided pursuits or chasing after money and other materialistic things may improve your short-term happiness but eventually it does not matter because your level of happiness will deflate and return to its set point. Just think how much of an impact this will be on children. Learning about this information can have a profound effect on bullying in schools. Information about the adaptation principle turns out to be a very important topic, but as many sources mentioned these studies are just beginning as they are still being fine-tuned.

Researchers like Myers and Diener (1995) has found that although age, faith, race, gender, and income can have the ability to affect happiness, in general people are happier than believed. These discoveries have important implications for the broader outlook of subjective well-being and lifelong happiness. Myers and Diener (1995) "Research focusing on joy and happiness has quadrupled", increasing interest in social scientist, policy makers and the average Joe. If they continue the age-old answer about the meaning of life could be around the corner. Until then, we can at least maneuver though the question, is happiness a destination or an ongoing pursuit. If I were to say the answer is no, it is not, a final destination. It tells a piece of the information but not the whole story, so, it could be misleading. I mean, why would there be more than one answer? But as we all know, when it comes to the human body it is never that simple. In life, there are difficulties and due to our "nerve cells responding vigorously to stimuli" Haidt (2006) even when we are down, we typically will not stay in that state for long. Eventually we will get back on that hedonic treadmill to seek what makes us happy. So technically, it is not a final destination, but it isn`t an ongoing pursuit either. Take breathing for instance, would we call it an ongoing pursuit even if it's an autonomic process? Like breathing, your brain's default level of happiness is an autonomic process. We are in a constant battle to remain happy without much effort because we fluctuate depending on the circumstances. In Haidt's words "We don't just habituate, we recalibrate".

We will now consider Haidt's last statement, "we recalibrate". Great! There is a final destination after all! If you haven't yet understood why I said the answer no, could be misleading, let me explain. In an obstacle course, you have a final destination. You may pass an opponent and you may fall down but you still have to pass the finish-line. Like in an obstacle course no matter how many times we fall or pass an opponent we still have our happiness set point (our destination).

The second part to the question, is happiness an ongoing pursuit? As Myers and Diener (1995) put it, there are books upon books in the self-help section of bookstores. We get it, people appear to not be happy and are trying every possible way to find happiness. In this school of thought though, we would assume that happiness is an ingoing pursuit. The tricky word here is pursuit, which makes it sound like you're actively chasing something. Consider breathing for example, would we say people are on an ongoing pursuit to breath? Maybe in terms of wanting to feel relief from stress, but they aren't literally going around grabbing their throats because they can't breathe. Most researchers agree we have a happiness set point that you can deviate up or down but in general it stay at a constant level. Like breathing it is something our brain does without telling it to. So, if it's an autonomic process it would not be considered an ongoing pursuit because we will automatically go back to our happiness set point without additional effort.

As previously stated, many sources like Myers (2000) and Kesebir & Diener (2008) mentioned these studies are just beginning and being fine-tuned. The exciting part is that so far, many psychologists has agreed that no matter what, we are bound to find happiness. Happiness from external sources or happiness from internal sources that will guide us on our own individual journeys. Every journey requires adapting if you want to get to that final destination. Adapting is making progress, inching one step closer to that finish line. Progress in turn leads to happiness. How we adapt and the progress we achieved while on our journeys dictate the duration of our happiness. We must take the scenic route and enjoy the scenery. Pleasures comes more from making progress toward goals than from achieving them Haidt (2006).

More information in positive psychology and more specifically on how happiness could actually improve many aspects of our lives for sustained happiness is excitingly needed. We could get over dysfunctions in an approved manner. For instance, depression, which has had an enormous amount of attention in recognizing warning signs. We are informed about the warning signs at school, at the doctor office, commercials, movies and T.V. shows and many other outlets. After the warning signs though, then what? A person has to see a doctor whom will validate that they are indeed depressed. After that, people go through numerous sessions with a psychiatrist and then eventually prescribed medication. People can go years taking these medications and seeing a therapist with no end in sight. Think of how faster the healing process would be if someone seen the warning signs that a person is depressed.

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