Happiness Doesn’t Last

The first noble truth is usually translated as “life is suffering”. Ouch. I think a better 3 word summary would be “suffering is inevitable”. Now here is this article showing giving a more detailed explanation of why that is. Here’s the short version: falling in love makes you very, very happy. But that happiness boost only lasts for a while. In this study, couples return to their original level of happiness after about 2 years.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t fall in love or marry the person of your dreams. It just means that you shouldn’t expect that person to bring you lasting happiness. The same is true of all kinds of things. Apparently the happiness boost from winning the lottery lasts less than a year. Two years if you add the Power Ball.

I myself am repeatedly amazed how little happiness I get from accomplishments in my career. I achieve something that before seemed so important, so monumental, and by later that night I’m back to where I started. When I got tenure, there wasn’t even any happiness, just relief.

So what does all this mean? Well, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t find a great spouse, or job, or other goals. Those things are fine. It just means that we need to really, truly in our bones remember that they won’t bring us lasting happiness. That is very, very hard to remember sometimes! Marriage and career take up a huge amount of our time, effort, and mental energy.

So of course the next question is: what will bring lasting happiness? How much time and effort should we devote to that?

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