Did you have a good weekend? Take a moment to savour it, if you did. There’s new scientific evidence this may help boost your long-term happiness.
In a study of almost 500 people over 12 weeks, the University of Missouri has found that we gradually adjust to new levels of happiness based on previous experiences — a process known as “hedonic adaptation,” according to the Vancouver Sun.
The emotional high of a new love or career success abates over time, reports the Sun. Then, we move on, seeking new highs and potentially frittering away the good vibes.
“It’s really about getting the most out of what you have before moving onto the next thing,” says lead author Kennon Sheldon, professor of psychological sciences. “Otherwise, (the pursuit of happiness) can become like an addiction, where we’re always looking for the next hit.”
Consider it the stop-and-smell-the-roses effect.
Six weeks after the study started, researchers asked participants to recount a positive experience they had.
“After another six weeks, they were reminded of that positive change and asked about the extent to which they still appreciated it, enjoyed new opportunities because of it, or aspired to better things,” reports the Sun.
Those who were less appreciative and mindful of that happy moment were more likely to drop back down to their baseline happiness. But those who continued to savour and enjoy it were able to delay that effect.
So, “hedonic adaptation was prevented when people showed continued appreciation of the benefits of the change that first made them happy, and continued to derive a variety of experiences related to that original event,” reports the Sun.
Examples included “finding ongoing joy in fitting into smaller clothes,” after weight loss, along with “receiving positive social attention and having greater stamina, while at the same time feeling emboldened to run a marathon, test the dating scene and take dance lessons.”
It looks like science may now be endorsing those Oprah-esque gratitude journals currently in vogue. But even if it’s not in your nature to gush, would you now consider dwelling on the positive a little more?