Imagine this situation: you have become rich thanks to winning the lottery. Now imagine that you are suddenly paralyzed legs. Which of these events will make you a happy person?
Twet obvious, is not it? Of course, you tell me - definitely winning the lottery!
However, when psychologists began to study this issue empirically, the obtained results are not quite confirming our intuitive assumptions. Naturally, the jackpot lucky in the next 12 months were significantly happier than people with paralysis of the lower limbs. Material possessions and the accompanying pleasure become for them a nice present, can not be said of deprivation of opportunities to move.
But a year later the differences between the two men disappeared. Both groups was marked by the same level of happiness that they experienced before their lives have changed. In other words, when both groups have adapted to the new status for them, their expectations were balanced: the disabled began to find joy in the small victories, and the winners of the lottery used to his luxurious lifestyle.
This example illustrates the basic human mistake of thinking that we can not reliably determine what will make our life happy and poorly predict exactly what can bring us joy. Philosopher Garrett Merriam of the University of Southern Indiana calls this human inability to define the criteria for happiness "displacement effects" (according to Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert).
"We believe that a pretty good idea how we feel in the near future - in a few days, a week or so. Therefore, we expect that the feeling of happiness will be with us for much longer than it takes to actually ».
As a rule, we believe that moving to another city, marriage, birth of children, etc. It makes us happy for years to come. However, this is definitely not true. Psychologists call this "habituation effect».
Description Graphics: "Four separate studies show that satisfaction with marriage sharply lower after the birth of the first child and only increased after the child begins to live separately from their parents».
From this graph it follows that contrary to popular opinion, children do not really make us happy.
As it turns out, if in fact the offspring does not make us happy, it is likely that progress on the career ladder will provide us with a cloudless future? Then scientists hasten to disappoint us. In 2012, the study found "no evidence that the promotion has a positive effect on general health and life satisfaction." Moreover, the researchers noted worsening mental state employee after promotion, due to high levels of anxiety.
"Glory, talent, wealth, beauty; most people believe that having these benefits, they will certainly become happy - says Merriam - but in fact it turns out that people with all of the above, are not much happier than those who did not get these privileges ».
Professor Daniel Gilbert also believes that winning the lottery - it's not a panacea, and the loss of his legs - this is not the end. We are capable to synthesize happiness. Many people are looking for outside sources of happiness, expecting to find it in things or relationships, or large bank accounts. But true happiness comes from within. True happiness comes when we learn to be content with what we have.