Friday, October 28, 2011

MORE on Happiness and Upcoming Writer's Challenge

JAN BROGAN: As it turns out, the happiness we all seek is best in small doses. In fact, it may be the small doses that actually create the happiness.
A new report from PSYBLOG (how many times do I exclaim this is my favorite blog?) talks about a 2008 study (Nelson&Meyvis) that tried to track happiness by offering massages to its participants. Half the participants received a three-minute continuous massage and the other half received a three-minute massage that was delivered in two parts, with a twenty second break in between. The authors expected the continuous massage to bring more happiness - because we all know, the longer the massage, the better. But, it turned out that the people who had the break enjoyed it more. Why? The theory is that the break stopped them from becoming acclimated to the massage.

Interesting concept: That adaptation is the enemy of happiness. Once we take things for granted, they lose their ability to bring us happiness. Or perhaps, we lose our ability to NOTICE these things bring us happiness. In either event, it explains why rich people are often not happy. Because they can afford it, the bar for their happiness keeps rising. They tend not to savor the small things because their expectations have risen to such heights.

So, you should rejoice! According to this study, small pleasures beat big pleasures. And while some cake is better than no cake, twice the amount of cake does not produce twice the amount of happiness (remember that when you are dieting.)

So USING THIS LOGIC: I planned the next WRITER'S CHALLENGE, which officially begins Sunday, October 30th. It is a smaller pleasure - only FOUR weeks. And it's only four weeks, so I can sneak it, and you can thoroughly enjoy it, before the holidays start. Then you will LONGING to be back in the calmer moments of disciplined writing.

As usual, there will be prizes. Small, highly-pleasurable, SIGNED prizes. Come back Sunday to sign up.


  1. Happy IS good in frequent, small doses. I AM on a diet. Heaven is in the details. What's a Writer's Challenge at Jungle Red? Hang my head, I've not been posting here when you've done them before and I have no idea what's up.

  2. It sounds pretty much logical, but I myself do not mind get used to happiness!

  3. This is such a fun topic. I should have chimed in yesterday that I too love cooking.

    Back to today's thread, I think you are right about the break allowing people to notice how great the massage was. A lot of books on happiness suggest counting your blessings, which forces you to take stock. I've been reading a book on raising a happy child, which has all kinds of tips like that--but the author says that if you can only make one change you would get the biggest result from practicing mindfulness as a parent. Then the good moments would really sink in, I guess.

  4. *Some* cake is better than no cake..but *more* cake is not better than *some* cake.

    You know, that's so perfect.

    I love this.

    So let's apply this to writing.

  5. Maybe part of the reason the split massage people were happier was anticipation. They got to anticipate the rest of the massage and anticipation of a good thing is almost as much fun as the event itself, right?

  6. My mother used to tell me anticipation was half the pleasure of anything. At the time, I thought she was just trying to discourage me from pre-marital sex ;-) but it turns out, as a life philosophy, she was absolutely right!

  7. Does this support or contradict this finding reported in Perspectives on Psychological Science: researchers define what they call the “dark side of happiness’’: feeling happy all the time can destroy relationships and careers, while avidly pursuing happiness is bound to lead to disappointment. One conclusion: "trying to increase happiness can actually be counterproductive."

  8. hmmm, trying to increase happiness can be counterproductive? don't like that conclusion. I like the conclusion we came to yesterday and today--look for the small ways to increase happiness!

    Avi, come back on Sunday and Jan will reveal it all. Even the rest of us on the blog don't quite know what she's up to!!

  9. Hallie, very interesting about the "dark side of happiness." I can see how happy people might be less driven and ambitious, which in turn might make them less aggressive in pursuing career goals. But relationships? Are happy people more self-sufficient?

    Very useful in thinking about character development . . .

  10. Yay, writer's challenge just in time for NaNoWriMo. And I agree, I believe that the anticipation of happiness contributes to the overall satisfaction of the happy event.

  11. Hey guys,
    I was in Boston all day long on an assignment and just got back to my computer.

    Trisha, you are so right on mindfulness, which I have to say, for my particular brain is such an incredible challenge EVERY DAY. It never gets any easier, but it never gets any less satisfying.

    Laura - good point on the anticipation.

    I have been thinking about this small doses thing all day and applying it to everything.

    And Hank is right. Need to apply it to writing. See you all Sunday at the WRiter's challenge.

    Tomorrow. What you would be for Halloween if procuring the costume and cost were no object!