I was reliably informed the other day that the answer is to read the 50 Shades trilogy and then use it as a how-to guide.
Tell me something I don’t know.
But for the more, eh, conventional amongst us, there are other approaches.
You could try…
…cooking dinner for your partner. Or you could learn massage…
You could buy him or her diamonds, fast cars, holidays in the sun.
Eggs Benedict in bed…now that’s a winner. (On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 15). I can assure you…
You could listen, nod, maintain eye contact…
Leave little messages around the place…
Not if you’re Philip Brickman (1943-1982) or Donald Campbell (1916 to 1996). These psychologists did some research and they found out that you, ah, cannot make anyone happy.
I am troubled by this because Eggs Benedict is not easy to make and I had that down as a bit of a personal, bulletproof USP…
So what it is that these party poopers are saying exactly?
Phil and Don spent a lot of time with lottery winners and accident victims who became paraplegic. That’s what happens when you fail medical school and have to become a psychologist.
They found out that…
…a short time after the event that changed their lives, lottery winners were not substantially happier and paraplegics were not substantially less happy than other people.
In terms of getting happy, constant exposure to “good things” doesn’t do it. This has become known as the hedonic treadmill, which puts a great picture in my head. The endless pursuit of pleasure without actually getting pleased…oh dear.
It turns out it’s the process of change that causes happiness or sadness and these emotions are just reactions to the change.
The underlying level of happiness is always there as the default and is soon returned to.
And you cannot change it.
Or, to be more accurate…
…you can change it but not with Eggs Benedict. Or diamonds. Or kinky sex.
To change your happiness requires something else. And you cannot do it to someone else. They need to look after themselves.
I’ve written about this before. It’s the central tenets of positive psychology. A handful of things that will make you happy (you can find all of these in this blog – use the search tool):
1. Identity – define who you are and act accordingly
2. Self-efficacy – just f***ing do it
3. ABC – emotional intelligence for grown ups
4. Optimism – learn it if you’re not so inclined
5. Resilience – don’t let undesired results blow you off course
I’m loath to give up Eggs Benedict and the powerful if short term effect it has on the lucky recipient, so here’s how I see it.
Fun, not happy…
Continue to do all the fun stuff because it’s fun – diamonds, presents, Eggs Benedict, holidays in the sun, etc. Love them for what they are – fun. But understand that it’s not going to make you happier. That’s not fun’s job description. Fun just makes the here and now more…fun.
If you mistake fun for what will make you happy you are destined to a life on the hedonic treadmill – running forever looking for bliss and simply ending up in the same place, sweaty, with too much stuff cluttering up your life.
I’m sure there’s something…
…in the Classics about this but as I am unencumbered by that type of education I’m not certain.
It’s the big beasts of positive psychology that will make you happy.
It takes a bit of work, but the payback’s really something.