BETTER THAN HAPPY – Episode 227

Set point. This is not a term that Jody coined. But it’s helpful to use in this discussion, because we are already familiar with it. Right? We’ve read about set points. We’ve heard about them. Our bodies have a weight set point – a weight that our body is comfortable at, and it’s hard to get out of, up or down. It is where our body is used to being. And if we were going to lose weight, and keep it off, we would need to change that set point. Right?

“I believe that we all have a happiness set point – the emotions that we’re used to feeling on a regular basis.”

And these emotions could be positive or negative. Sometimes feeling a familiar negative feeling is more comfortable than feeling something unfamiliar, even if it is positive.

Jody uses the example of lottery-ticket winners. Their happiness spikes when they win the lottery. Even before they are given the actual money, just the thoughts they have about the money and about the life they are going to be able to live, spikes their happiness. But, in very a short time, with money still in hand, their happiness level drops down to what it was before they’d won the money. She calls it their “pre-lottery level of happiness”.

Another example. Matthew. Before Matthew died, Bry and I had a good strong marriage. We had short-term goals. We had long-term goals. We felt like we were doing good in the world. And we were happy.

When Matthew died, we felt a pain we’d never before felt. And it lasted some time.

But, I remember the day I chased the other children down the sidewalk in front of our London flat. And I played with them for the first time in such a long time. And I smiled. And I laughed.

Our marriage remained strong. We changed our goals a bit – some things seemed more important than before Matthew’s death, and some things seemed less important. We started reaching outward again. And we returned to “happy”.

Our happiness set point was … happy.

“As human beings, our brains want to settle in, at whatever our happiness set point is.”

And we can change that happiness set point. But it takes work. It takes intentional thoughts. It takes change. (We will be talking more about the difficulty of change next week.) It takes being comfortable, being uncomfortable.

Let’s talk about our false pleasures. If I am feeling discouraged, and I turn to food for a distraction, I will be distracted, right? But, because it is a false pleasure, I will return to my happiness set point – discouragement. And that may not be my long-term set point. I might not be a discouraged person. But, at that moment, that short-term set point will only be lifted for a second, with that false pleasure.

To change my happiness set point, it will take real life “pleasure”.

“The way to first of all increase your happiness set point but also just to live a more extraordinary life in general, is to be comfortable with the discomfort of being outside your happiness set point.”

What is my happiness set point right now? Could I be comfortable being outside of that zone? Could I be comfortable with more happiness? Could I be comfortable with less, at times? Instead of buffering with these false pleasures, could I allow myself to feel uncomfortable, in pursuit of a real pleasure?

“If you’re willing to sit in the discomfort of it (and not buffer with false pleasures), and to know that it’s fine and you’re perfectly capable of some negative emotion, and know that it might be helping you to get to where you want to go in your life, then that is the way you achieve goals. That is the way you create a more extraordinary life!”

What is my happiness set point right now? When I am not buffering, what are the three emotions I feel on a regular basis? Jody says to keep a journal for a day or two. What are the three most common emotions I experience in those days?

I tried it. Here is what I got: LOVE, ANNOYED, and HAPPY.

My emotions were notably more negative around meal times when all of the family was home and hungry. Ha ha! That is something I can look at, and devote some thought-work to.