Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Happiness Amnesia

 

Why do we daily forget what makes us happy - and unhappy?Sometimes I like to imagine a little bell going off in my ear when I’m about to do something I sense will make me less happy. In my mind, the bell doesn’t generally ring before momentous decisions such as weighing whether to quit a job or drop out of college: those decisions are usually accompanied by an extensive weighing of the pros and cons. Instead, this little bell I imagine goes off whenever we have to make one of the countless sundry decisions of life, particularly when our eyes or tastebuds are preoccupied with getting what they want: A Cuervo golden margarita the size of my head? Bell rings. A cool-looking pair of overpriced sneakers I don’t need and can’t afford? Bell rings. A meaningless, soon-to-be-forgotten, one-off affair with a beautiful woman trying to seduce me thousands of miles from home?

In other words, the bell would ring more often than you expect – and perhaps more often. 

As the internet wisely points out, getting drunk is like borrowing happiness from tomorrow. Each day we must make decisions pertaining to everything from what we eat to whom we associate with – and these decisions and countless others impact our happiness.

Opportunities to increase or decrease our happiness are everywhere and we often choose badly, a phenomenon that is most evident when observing children. Left to their own devices – literally – most kids would rather play video games or watch Netflix all day. Yet how do these children feel when they must invariably cease doing so? They’re miserable. My own kids provide numerous examples. Here’s one: taking baths. They hate it. The very prospect of a bath prompts them to adopt an intolerable whine. A funny thing happens, though, when they’re actually takinga bath: non-stop shrieks of laughter and joy.

And adults aren’t much better than children, as you can see from the countless examples of people who can’t get out of their own way when it comes to their weight, their work, their lives. 

Conversely, the things we find most satisfying are precisely those things which we tend to avoid: getting work done, eating healthfully, making new friends, visiting the sick and lonely. So there’s a disconnect between what we want and what makes us happy. Importantly, merely being aware of this this disconnect isn’t sufficient to overcome it – it requires daily vigilance.

It’s a kind of happiness amnesia. We are shocked to learn that the hard work of learning to play a guitar is more satisfying than ease of watching tv. And yet we never learn.

So the next time you must make a seemingly mundane decision, ask yourself which path would make you happiest, and with practice you may find you’ve develop your own little bell – and that it tends to go off when you least expect it.

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There are 8 comments.

  1. Songwriter Member

    David Deeble: Conversely, the things we find most satisfying are precisely those things which we tend to avoid: getting work done, eating healthfully, making new friends, visiting the sick and lonely. So there’s a disconnect between what we want and what makes us happy. Importantly, merely being aware of this this disconnect isn’t sufficient to overcome it – it requires daily vigilance.

    Yeah… And don’t you just hate that???

     

    • #1
    • October 10, 2019, at 9:50 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  2. Vance Richards Member

    David Deeble: Here’s one: taking baths. They hate it. The very prospect of a bath prompts them to adopt an intolerable whine. A funny thing happens, though, when they’re actually takinga bath: non-stop shrieks of laughter and joy.

    Yeah, when the kids were younger the two hardest things were getting them in the tub and getting them out of the tub. 

    • #2
    • October 10, 2019, at 10:05 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  3. Juliana Member

    I think there are three things which get in the way of the bell:

    1. Instant gratification
    2. The ability to ignore, dismiss, or downplay consequences.
    3. The ability to rationalize any action in the moment.
    • #3
    • October 10, 2019, at 11:30 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. The Reticulator Member

    There is good advice here for decisions as to whether we should adopt new technologies. Including life-saving medical technologies. 

    • #4
    • October 10, 2019, at 2:36 PM PST
    • Like
  5. Steven Seward Member

    David, I think you might have explained the lyrics of the Todd Rundgren song “All the Children Sing.”

    See Ms. Malone
    She spends another quiet evening alone
    Sits in her study and stares at the phone
    And a bell in her head will ring

    All the children sing
    All the dancers start to sway in time
    The orchestra begins to play
    Somebody pours the wine
    The sun and moon collide
    Isn’t gravity a funny thing
    The universe explodes apart
    All the children sing

    Of Mr. Malloy
    He’s always seen himself as one of the boys
    He thinks that men are tough and women are toys
    But a bell in his head will ring

    All the children sing
    All the birds are chirping harmony
    The scent of love is in the air
    Sunset on the sea
    The angel of the lord
    Just declared we aren’t worth a thing
    The galaxy is null and void
    All the children sing

    Crawled across a thousand miles of desert sand
    Looking from an answer from a holy man
    And this is what he told me with a wave of his hand
    He said, “A bell in your head will ring”

    • #5
    • October 10, 2019, at 6:03 PM PST
    • 1 like
  6. Randy Webster Member

    David Deeble: A meaningless, soon-to-be-forgotten, one-off affair with a beautiful woman trying to seduce me thousands of miles from home?

    You’re a better man than I am, David. No beautiful woman has ever tried to seduce me. Now that I think about it, no not so beautiful ones either.

    • #6
    • October 11, 2019, at 2:29 PM PST
    • 1 like
  7. Larry3435 Member

    I will link to this post every time someone on Ricochet tells me that being a utilitarian simply means being a hedonist. Nicely done. By the way, I have never been offered a “one-off affair with a beautiful woman trying to seduce me thousands of miles from home,” so I can’t really confirm that particular example from personal experience. But I do hope I would be smart enough to say no. Besides, I am not a Brad Pitt lookalike, so it would almost certainly be a scam.

    • #7
    • October 11, 2019, at 4:51 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  8. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Having just survived 66 hours of my community in California being without electric power, and as a result: no hot showers, a major struggle to have hot coffee, and hot meals; ditto having cold foods like ice cream; the ability to fill up the car with gasoline; to go shopping for needed items or just for the heck of it; needing to conserve power for the cell phone, so no idle chit chat; ditto the use of the computer, so no ricochet, I feel the need to point out that absence does make the heart grow fonder.

    Waking up this morning to a house with a humming fridge, and all that this usually awful noise implies, is one truly happy experience.

    And hopefully for any new parents who are about to find out that they are with child, there will be great happiness at that news as well.

    You don’t need to be psychic to expect a wave of babies born between July 9th and July 18th 2020, here in California-land.

    • #8
    • October 12, 2019, at 12:20 PM PST
    • 3 likes