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The hedonic treadmill is very real. If you are trying to get to happiness via achievement you will either fail to achieve the things you want, or you will realize after achieving them that they haven't made you happier. I've achieved things in my life. I didn't have any major failures until I was in my mid-20s. But no matter what achievements I had (or failures), the changes to my happiness were always temporary.

I pulled on that intellectual thread and learned that this is exactly what you would expect based on the research. Achieving your goals only achieves short-term happiness, and if you base your happiness on that, eventually you are going to reach a goal that stops your happiness dead.

You have to find the things that make you happy, and none of them have a long-term impact. They are the things you can do to maintain a consistent level of happiness, if you put in the consistent work. For me, the biggest impact on my happiness is regular meditation and regular exercise. Research also supports gratitude journaling and philanthropy. Simple. But NOTHING has a long-term impact.

To reiterate, the things that work are the things that give you a little boost of happiness every day, and if you find the right ones you can get to a level that is good for you through constant maintenance.

This doesn't mean achieving your goals is unimportant. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a dogged persistence when it comes to achieving goals. But I don't expect them to make me happy. The key is to recognize that your goals reflect your values, the things you believe are important whether or not you expect them to make you happy.

Purchase your happiness separate from your goals, it's much cheaper that way.

Well stated. I think there's also a key difference between happiness, which my parents' generation [boomerish] constantly cites as a kind of fixed life goal, and contentedness, which I consider as a state of being more or less able to tolerate your own existence.

The word "happy" is related to luck and chance -- like 'happenstance' -- and used to mean something like "fortunate." [see 'Hamlet' - "We are happy in that we are not overhappy... on Fortune's cap we are not the very button..."] Whereas lately, it's come to indicate an emotional state somewhere in the vicinity of joy. Even so, the word's earlier use points up something key about high emotional states : they are fleeting and fickle, just like the strumpet Fortune.

For my part, I think that if I'd heard more about contentedness as a goal in my formative years, and less about happiness , the hedonic treadmill would have been much easier to avoid -- or, at least, consciously manage.

You can increase your happiness within a range.

Being economically secure including heath insurance and living below your means cuts out some major issues, but beyond that has minimal benifit.

Partners / children can be a boost or stress point depending on the person, but loneliness is an almost universal drag. Thus seek and maintain positive friendships.

Heath is somewhat up to the whims of fate, but a heathly diet, good sleeping habits, and minimal exercise can maximize what you have to work with.

Tangent: I've been looking more into longevity and I've noticed "minimal exercise" is a theme. What does this mean to you?

I'm currently around 20% bodyfat. I eat healthy, drink when thirsty, sleep 7.5-9 hours, walk/bike as much as transport and do "convict conditioning" workouts 3 days a week. Outside of that, I don't "workout" but I am active in chores, hiking, etc.

All my friends are extremely invested in fitness and all sub-15% bodyfat. I am very disciplined but I try to focus more on nutrition than fitness (I cheat too much!).

I'd love more insight and if you had studies on this I'd love to learn more about efficient/minimal exercise.

That's likely over the threashold I am talking about.

If you're consistent and do intense aka 75-85 max heart rate at least once for 30 minutes per week that makes a real difference over time. Lower intensity requires a lot more because the body needs to adapt to stress.

Traditionally you see stuff like : http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity... and people say I don't have time for that. But studies find meaningful change happens at under 1/2 their recommended levels.

Sometimes I wonder if language plays a part in perceived happiness as well. I usually hear things described in extremes such as "Wow, that's so shit" or "Yeah, it was pretty amazing" but when everything is only one or the other, surely it must start to alter how you view the world.

If you're saying something was "fantastic" but really it was average, wouldn't that disconnect make you feel like you /should/ be happier than you really are? Maybe you'd wonder if there's something wrong with you when really it's just an inaccuracy. I think it makes sense that social media culture at the moment would cultivate that since you want everything to seem way better than it really is. Not that humans don't have a tendency to do this stuff regardless.

It's something I think about from time to time and this post reminded me of it.

I’ve thought about that recently the same way after I lost someone very important to me. I think the whole thing can be described by a 2-by-2 matrix, the axes being:

- pursuing life goals no/yes

- being happy no/yes

Some people just live their lifes and are simply happy, don’t pursue any goals at all. Then other people pursue goals without being happy. Of course being in the top quadrant is optimal, but many people decide to optimize for one axis only. I realized that I’m in the bottom left...

It is easier to have pleasant feelings and a pleasant judgement of life if:

- one has money and success and other things that meet the personal criteria of a good life.

- one has none of the problems related to poverty and failure and frustration and health issues.

Feelings are triggered by hormones and the nervous system.

E.g. panic attacks are related to too much epinephrine (adrenaline).

Quote from the article: “My life just changed so fast,” Elle Mills said in a video from May 18. “My anxiety and depression keeps getting worse and worse. I’m literally just waiting for me to hit my breaking point.”

I guess being creative on youtube also means (too) much physical and emotional stress for some people. Especially for those who already suffer from anxiety and/or depression.

Dramatic change or lack of change despite efforts is also stressful.

Put yes/yes in the bottom left, problem solved!

Wow. The separation of one's life goals from the pursuit of happiness seems incredibly stoic, yet necessary. Thank you for sharing this.


I've found the best way for me to keep a steady-state of contentedness, sprinkled with joy almost every day, is to truly love my fellow man. I wouldn't consider that exactly philanthropy though, and philanthropy only helps when one has a basis of love for everyone (even for people who openly do 'wrong', or who go against your personal values). Along with that, this love must be freely given to individuals, and not just felt when contemplating mankind generally (it's easy to love mankind, but it's not so easy to love that guy over there).

It's hard work to find that kind of love for everyone and it needs constant maintenance, but once you know how to maintain it, it changes everything. Forgiveness is easier, empathy is automatic, and everyone else's joy and accomplishments become yours. It also gives a sense of freedom, which I suspect comes from not being boxed-in in one body and one sense of self because you have the opportunity to feel things through others, and to connect to others simply by passing them by on the street and noticing that, yes, you love that one too.

There are a few other things as well, though love for men is the biggest. These are: appreciation of beauty in all things, appreciation of beauty in nature (especially contemplating how dynamic nature is), and a creative outlet that is personal.

I think what you're describing is called "compassion", in case you were looking for a word that fits better than "philanthropy".

I described love.

I got a bit of that recently. After finally grasping a bit of electronics (which eluded me for years), I ... ended up thinking then what.

Got me thinking that these are important but to an extent only, basic human life is what makes you (only me?) happy. Smooth schedule and smooth people interactions...

I think it a good idea not to pursue happiness at all. Go for satisfaction instead.

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