Recently, I read a good book called Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and it got me thinking.
The author discusses how people think. Usually, we jump to a biased opinion without really thinking about it in a rational way.
He goes on to say that we can’t even rely on our experiences, because our “remembering self is different than our ‘experiencing self.'” In other words, it’s difficult to distinguish memories from experiences.
Those are interesting bits of theory. However, near the end, he delves into the most interesting part of the book. He gives his opinion on what makes people happy.
First, he showed a chart showing what effect marriage has on well-being and happiness. According to him, most people were happiest around the time they got married. Five years later, it really started to take a dip.
On their wedding day, the bride and groom know that the rate of divorce is high, and marital disappointment is even higher. However, like anyone in the throes of love, they believe these statistics don’t apply to them. The author has several explanations for this. I recommend that you actually read the book to find out more.
The author also cites a study that states there’s no overall difference in well-being between women who lived with a mate and women who did not. Women who have a mate spend less time alone, but also much less time with friends. They spend more time making love but also more time doing housework, preparing food, and managing things—all relatively unpopular activities. On average, marriage doesn’t affect well-being, because it changes some aspects of life for the better and others for the worse.
It all boils down to genetics. Or so claims the author. A disposition for well-being is as heritable as height or intelligence, as demonstrated by studies of twins separated at birth.
People vary greatly in how happy they are.
Goals make a large difference in one’s happiness. The goals people set for themselves are so important to what they do and how they feel about it.
The author says people can’t even answer the question “Are you happy with your life?” correctly. If people were feeling good at the time of the survey, they were happy. On the other hand, if someone is sick, in the midst of a raucous divorce, or deep in financial struggles, they tend to feel their life. It’s called “focusing bias.”
In other words, your mindset matters!Advertisement.
Memories can make us happy. Why take so many photos on the vacation, rather than just experience the vacation? Maybe because we’re building memories, the key ingredient to cherishing the vacation forever.
Do you want to go back to the beach to the same place and routine you did last year? Or do you want to try an adventure, someplace exciting you have never been to before? Is a memorable vacation better than one that is not?
We devote our entire vacations to the construction of memories. Perhaps we should put away the camera and live in the moment, even if it’s not very memorable.
All things considered, how happy are you with your life these days?
Do you spend most of your time engaged in activities you enjoy? With people you love? If you’re not, you should start. It’s important because life is short.
Have you ever been totally absorbed in a task, in a flow state? Where you’re so enthralled with a puzzle, book, card game, or sport? You don’t want to be interrupted, do you? You’re having a good time. I dare say, you’re even happy.
The use of time is one of the areas of life over which people have some control. Few individuals can “will” themselves to have a sunnier disposition. But, you can arrange your life to spend less of your day idle, and more of your time doing the things you enjoy with people you like. So if you’re feeling listless and just coasting through life, start making changes. Do more of what you love.
We’re all here for a purpose. Make sure you find yours!
Did you enjoy this article? Then check out these other articles written by Robert Fowler:
Originally published September 21, 2023