This post was last updated on December 13th, 2020 at 05:17 pm
Have you ever had those on and off phases in your relationship, work, or life, in general?
GUEST POST | Perhaps you find it really hard to be consistently okay, happy, or maybe contented with your work, etc. like you’re really bad at maintaining the things that you handle in your life that it really starts to get noticeable.
Do you ever feel like one day you want something, and then after that you feel that you either don’t want it anymore or you want some more; like constantly seeking if there’s more to this if there is more to what is given to you—more to what your life means to you.
If yes, I want you to know that I feel you too. For so many years I have always wondered why I wasn’t the type to just sit in one place and not think about what’s out there. I seem to be so curious as to why I can’t stay committed to what I said I wanted, and end up thinking maybe there’s something wrong with me.
The things that I want and get in life don’t seem to keep me happy and contented after some time. At some point, I either return to being unhappy or I start to question the things around me. I wasn’t really sure why I was the way that I was.
Have you wondered why? Why is it that having those things that we want doesn’t make us as happy as what we thought we’d be?
Before we talk more about that,
Let’s Play a Game
Do you know this game called Would You Rather? You just easily pick what you would rather, given two situations. No room left for reasons. Now let me ask you a question:
Would You Rather…
(a) meet the OTL (one true love) of your life and be with them for 2 weeks and then they die and you never get to fall in love again, or
(b) settle with someone nice for the rest of your life?
You might think this is silly but try and play the game. Figure out what you’d rather do.
You see, I have thought about my answer, and I thought I’d rather go with B. But then, questions would start to raise, can I really settle in with someone who has been nice to me, and never go with the feeling that maybe someone out there is for me? Someone whom I can confidently say I love them not just because they’re nice to me, but because that’s how deeply I feel about them.
And if I picked A, there isn’t much of a difference. I would wonder: do we really think that when we find our one true love, we will be forever happy with them? How would we know that that person is really THE ONE, and no one out there is really much more compatible with us than them?
I think that no matter what your answer is, you’ll end up wondering: is this it, or there’s more to it? And that the question should not be of which you would settle for. The question should be, are you capable of settling in?
Well, you know, it doesn’t really matter. All the things that you get, good or bad, will not stay for too long.
Most importantly, whichever you settle for will not really decide what will make you more happy and contented in life.
Wanting Something In Your Life Doesn’t Really Make You As Happy As You Think You Will Be
When we want something in life, we’re so thrilled towards getting it! And when we finally have what we want, it makes us happy so much. Well, who doesn’t, right? When you’ve finally gotten that job offer you badly want, or that girl you’ve been trying to impress for how many months now, or that new TV you saved your money for—you are genuinely happy.
Well, maybe, for a while.
Generally, in life, people do get happy when they fall in love. We get happy when we get a job raise when we achieve financial stability, etc. But sometimes we have the urge to bite more than what we can chew in life. We think that wanting more means more happiness coming our way.
Ultimately, I have learned that humans are actually wired that way. We seem to know that we will be happy if we keep getting what we want in life, and happier if we keep getting more until we can finally convince ourselves that we’re satisfied.
People think that when and if they get to a certain place they will be happy in life, and that if they’re not as happy anymore as much as they were before, they’d think that there’s something wrong. But happiness isn’t some kind of a place where you can stay forever.
It’s not something that stays for too long. And the thing is, it’s normal. We can’t stay happy forever. We are really meant to go back to our baseline not because we’re unhappy, but because that’s the way our mind works. We just tend to become adapted to how we feel.
Everyone believes that we can be happy when we get what we want and that the only impediment about it is that we don’t always get what we want.unknown
I’m not saying that we are very inconsistent human beings and that we keep wanting more. I’m saying that we’re actually not really aware of the reasons why we can’t stay happy for so long or aware of how finding our own happiness really works. There’s a key to be genuinely happy in life and it’s not just a one-time big-time shot. You’re supposed to find it in those little frequent moments you do in your life that make you happy.
If you want to read more of what things won’t make you happy, you can read my other article: 7 Misconceptions About Happiness
The Hedonic Adaptation of Life
This is called the Phenomena of Hedonic Adaptation or Hedonic Treadmill. This is the process of becoming used to the negative and positive things in our life. We have this manner that we can’t enjoy things forever or that we can’t keep being sad forever.
As weird as it sounds, it’s also the same for the bad things that happen to us. Thankfully, it’s the same for both the bad and good stuff that we encounter in life.
This is because a lot of people overestimate how they will feel before they’ve even achieved what they want. Our minds fool us into thinking of either the worst or the best outcomes, and not taking those in-betweens into consideration. We suck at predicting what’s best for us and what’s not, and our minds are to blame for it.
Hedonic Adaptation is the reason why we seem to get used to the stuff that makes us happy. This is the reason why we have to continuously seek the good things, the little happy moments, and the things to be grateful for in our life.
If this surprises you, well it’s because our minds have great control over body, behaviors, feelings, and actions, that we don’t realize a lot of things if we don’t take a moment and contemplate them. Fortunately, Hedonic Adaptation applies both to the positive and negative things that happen in our life.
The Bad Things That Happen In Your Life Will Not Be As Bad As You Think It Will Be
What’s good about this phenomenon is that we also get used to those negative things in life. In simple terms, when you encounter a severe predicament in your life, like maybe getting divorced, flunking out of school, breaking up with your girlfriend or boyfriend, it won’t be as bad as you think it is, and that over time, you will eventually get used to it, get over it, or be okay about it.
Trust me, it’s true.
We have this manner of always expecting for worst-case scenarios. We’re taught not to talk to strangers because apparently, talking to strangers means that we’ll get robbed or be under a situation we can’t handle. We think that losing our jobs means losing our whole life’s purpose. We feel that we’re good for nothing if we fail that test. And so our minds tell us that we’ll feel terrible if we let those things happen. Better safe than sorry, right?
But it doesn’t. When the ball’s on the other side of the fence, we realize that it doesn’t really hurt as much as we expect it to be. And that we can even learn something from it. What makes this unhealthy is that if you make it a manner to always expect the worst, you’ll attract the wrong kind of energy in your life.
So, instead of training yourself to be afraid of the worst, train yourself to hope for the better in all situations. That’s where the difference is.
Our minds tell us a lot of things, but hedonic adaptation isn’t one of them. We always forget how resilient we are with our problems, how we are always capable of changing and adapting in every situation that happens to us in life, and how powerful our minds can be if we learn how to understand its mystery. You should know that eventually, things will turn out well.
If you ever find yourself questioning why you weren’t as happy as you were before when you do the things you do, tell yourself that it’s okay. You are ever-changing. Embrace all the things that come and go, and take the happy moments with you.
You don’t have to base your happiness on some kind of stuff you want or some work you do. Wanting something in life is good. It does give you joy. But there’s more to this world which can offer you a lot of great things to be happy about.
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Elle is a Filipina student blogger who’s dedicated to finding happiness, and achieving well-being, in her life. She practices and blogs about mindfulness, self-development, and life teachings in general. Her website, Unpopular Opinions, is a safe space for individuals to share, relate, and navigate through their thoughts and feelings. You can follow her on Twitter or Pinterest.