Kiki & Lala

Happiness Is…

Posted on: January 9, 2010

A few years ago, Little twin friend here in New York told me about this book he was reading called Stumbling on Happiness written by author and psychologist Dan Gilbert. I never really got around to reading it but…

The happy Dan Gilbert

In a nutshell, he challenges the notion that happiness is achieving and acquiring everything we aspire for and desire.  If we don’t get what we want, we become dissatisfied and ultimately unhappy.  With ingenious research, he shows that happiness is not just a choice. Happiness is synthetic.  We as human beings are predisposed to create happiness.  Whoa! Heaveeey….

He says even if the worst things happen to us, we STILL have the capacity to be happy thanks to what he calls a psychological immune system. I suppose you can also call this resilience.  And this ability is actually where happiness resides.  You lose your job, you lose your loved one, you lose your legs, you still have the same capacity to be happy as someone who has his job, who is with a loved one and who has his legs.  Why? Because we are built that way.  Through intriguing experiments he is able to prove this hypothesis and write this book about it.

As I was aimlessly channel surfing, I stumbled on this PBS documentary called This Emotional Life.  Its a three part series hosted by Dan Gilbert.  It features real people who have “synthesized” happiness, enriched by personal relationships as a result of their lives not going the way they wanted or planned.  I’ve embedded some interesting videos of these real people and their real stories.  Look how unbroken they are in spite of.

It also features celebrities – people perceived as leading rich and fulfilled lives – sharing their thoughts on happiness.  The video below features Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame talking about happiness, intimacy and PORCUPINES…you might want to invite Little Twin Hubby to watch with you.  Kidding!

Does this mean that we simply settle? Our brains convince us that what we really wanted wasn’t REALLY what we wanted as a way of coping with disappointment, as some kind of a consolation?  Not really.  Check out the video below as Dr. Gilbert explains why.

This hypothesis sits well with me because as you know I managed to be content today having way less than I did four years ago when I made the big move.   Not that I can even put my fairly blessed life at the same level as these life survivors featured in the documentary, but this just makes sense to me.  As one of the people  in the documentary said, in moments of sadness and despair, you really don’t have a choice but to be happy.

So as we start the new year, let’s not just choose happiness.  Let’s create it!

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