April 8, 2013

Pleasure & happiness discussion on our blog

Dear Friends,

Last night we explored the concepts of Pleasure and Happiness from the perspective of Buddha's teachings in select suttas. Click  here to read the text of my talk is. (It is also listed on the website Resource page here.)

A few weeks ago the Chronicle ran an article on how, "new research in the field of positive psychology… shows that indulging in life's pleasures in smaller doses, or even giving them up for stretches of time, helps us enjoy them significantly more." (The article can be read in full at http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/Why-Lent-makes-people-happier-4368230.php#ixzz2Pj05eQOh) This seems like an excellent article for an exchange of thoughts in the blog on our sangha web site. In terms of my talk on Pleasure & Happiness, I'd love to read what you think the Chronicle article is really talking about?

Here are excerpts from the article:

In one new study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers Jordi Quoidbach and Elizabeth Dunn had 55 people eat a piece of chocolate and report how they felt. Then the researchers instructed some of those people to abstain from chocolate for a week, told others to eat as much chocolate as they wanted, and gave a third group no special instructions.

When all 55 people ate another piece of chocolate at the end of the week, those who had abstained reported significantly greater happiness than either the bingers or the people left to their own devices.

In fact, the bingers reported feeling less happy after their end-of-week chocolate than they'd felt after eating their piece at the start of the week.

As it turns out, people tend to get used to sources of joy and pleasure very quickly. And when you have more of something pleasurable, it becomes easier to take it for granted, and harder to savor it. The result is a psychic numbing to the good things in life.

While that numbing effect may seem obvious, we're generally unaware of it in our own lives: Studies show that people (mistakenly) think that getting more of the things they value will make them happier.

This same misconception about happiness leads many people to covet wealth and material things. Research suggests that more money can bring us more happiness, but only until we earn up to about $75,000 a year. After that, there seems to be a negligible increase in happiness from making more money, meaning that many of us waste a lot of time pursuing a happiness we'll never reach. Or worse, our single-minded pursuit of wealth stresses us out, compromises our values and strains our relationships.

All of this research points to a paradox of happiness: It's not tied to abundance but to recognizing and appreciating what we do have.

Hope you enjoy exploring these ideas,

Rebecca

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