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God and Happiness (Part 2 of 3)

August 12, 2021

In the last newsletter, the outsider said, “Jesus was the MOST happy when he was on the cross…”

Let’s talk about hedonic adaptation. It is the tendency for people to return to a relatively stable level of happiness, regardless of whether there was a major recent positive or negative event that changed one’s life situation.

For example, if you make $1 million, you will feel great. But you will then eventually feel normal and only another $2 million or $10 million will get you to feel happy again.

On the flip side, if you become homeless, you will feel horrible. But eventually you will get used to it and a hot meal will make you feel happy again.

We’ve likely experienced hedonic adaptation in our lives but we’re often not aware of it. But this begs the question: What does it mean to pursue happiness?

There are religious and philosophical groups that tackle this issue by limiting happiness. In the past, there were groups known as “ascetics” who may even go so far as to harm themselves. All of this seems to be intertwined with a religious stance.

If happiness is fleeting, then why do we pursue it? It if cannot be achieved for a prolonged time period, why don’t we find something else better to do? Instead, we find that the majority of people settle for many short spurts of happiness (e.g. addictions). I don’t blame them, but there has to be something more.

Psychiatry has the “antidepressant.” But antidepressants don’t make you “happy.” They improve your neuroplasticity so you can challenge your negative thoughts. In fact, any medication that “makes you happy” is known to have severe habit-forming properties (a.k.a addictive).

There have been research studies in psychology about happiness. They seem to point to a common theme. True long-lasting happiness lies in your social network. If you have people that love you and people you love, you will more likely have sustained happiness throughout your life.

So make as many friends as possible, right? That might be one way to go about it. But there’s more to the story. I’ll discuss it next week in part 3.

Dr. Eric

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