Happiness is a term that is found in just about any industry or topic that you can find. It is used by well-intentioned people to describe a benefit, it is used by marketers and business people to sell a product or service, and it is what humans believe we desire the most in this world.
In fact, happiness is far more elusive and far less useful for our satisfaction in the world than we might expect. As Daniel Gilbert, the author of "Stumbling on Happiness," explains, there are all types of things that actually make us happy and many times we don't really know what that is.
Time and Happiness
One of the stand-out messages in the book includes how humans perceive time and the happiness that comes with that. He explains that as people do more novel and interesting things in their lives, they are able to experience time more slowly and thus savor it more. That is why adding exhilarating experiences that make you feel alive are the ones you savor and remember the most.
Memory and happiness stretch when you are engaging in certain practices that mean the most to you. Usually it is the experience of doing something novel, but in general terms it could just include doing more play with your friends or family.
According to Gilbert, one of the best ways to add more happiness to your life is to engage in activities that are novel, create a vivid and memorable experience, and cannot be easily or often replicated.
What Really Makes Us Happy?
The other question that Gilbert raises is "what really makes us happy?" Most humans think that we know what will help to make us happy, but our actions tell a different story. For example, he discusses "hedonic-adaptation," which basically states that humans are great at adapting to whatever happens in their life whether it is good or bad.
When measuring happiness, humans misestimate how impactful a good or bad event might be for their lives. The fear of something bad happening is almost always worse for happiness than the bad event itself!
Takeaways -- Searching for Happiness
At the end of the day, statistics and personal experience show that happiness is often elusive if you approach the topic in the wrong way. If you are focused on gaining more experiences with loved ones and people that you enjoy spending time with, you'll be able to find happiness without doing much searching.