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Stay Happy Even in Difficult Times

In 1978, a group of researchers compared the happiness levels of two very different groups of people: lottery winners and people who became paralyzed after surviving horrific accidents...
In 1978, a group of researchers compared the happiness levels of two very different groups of people: lottery winners and people who became paralyzed after surviving horrific accidents.

You might think that lottery winners had achieved all their goals and were basking in happiness, and the paraplegic people were spending their days in misery.

In fact, one year after their respective life-changing events, the happiness levels of both groups were the same.

This is an example of what scientists call the impact bias.

It means that we're very, very bad at estimating the impact of various events on our happiness. We think that winning the lottery or getting married could change our lives dramatically, but after a few months, the "new" life becomes just as mundane and boring as our old one. We think that losing control of our limbs would be a tragedy, but many paralyzed people still lead happy lives despite their disabilities.

The 1978 study showed that dramatic life-changing events, no matter whether positive or negative, have no major impact on long-term happiness.

Today, psychologists believe that every person has a "set point" of happiness. No matter what happens in a person's life, their happiness levels will eventually drift towards the set point. While there are tragedies that people never fully recover from, it's still good to know that the majority of life's events don't affect us as strongly as we think.


So… how do you stay happy when everything goes wrong?

Our brains have a defense mechanism that gets activated in extreme situations like experiencing an earthquake or losing control over one's limbs. It's called the "psychological immune system" and serves to protect us from extreme negative emotions.

But how do you boost your happiness levels without having to go through extreme suffering?

Research shows that people can increase their happiness by making a conscious effort to count their blessings, reframe situations in a positive light, and perform kind acts. To boost your happiness, try building habits such as writing in a gratitude journal or practicing regular acts of kindness.

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