People who find pleasure in what they do usually discover meaning in their work, family or self and are likely to commit themselves to what they do, think or believe and in the end, they are happy. But a recent study suggests that people are also happy because of what they expect. PEMBI STEPHEN-DAVID writes.
It may turn out that happiness, which is viewed as a mental or emotional state of wellbeing characterised by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy, can occur before the expected event. Research on human happiness by psychologists has found out that human adaptation to major life events is not the only factor to influence our wellbeing. Those who will have their life run in a more balanced way are predominantly inclined to feel happy long before the fortunate occurrence in their life.
Recent psychological studies have found that the feeling of happiness is not related to outside circumstances or the turning points of one’s life. This means that prosperity, marriage or health - some ingredients of happiness - do not determine our subjective wellbeing.
This theory has proved to be basically true, but for some changes concerning the character of the event. Though most people can adapt to a variety of negative and disturbing circumstances like the death of a close person or significant changes in marital status and return to a normal level of wellbeing, individual differences still matter. After a review of the studies, where the most important factor proved to be the adaptation to life events, new discoveries were made to prove the counter evidence.
First of all, it was proved that happiness is not a stable state only perturbed by negative and positive events. Some major disturbances may affect your happiness to greater extents than others may.
The researches, conducted by Richard E. Lucas of Michigan State University and the German Institute for Economic Research in Germany and Great Britain, collected the data on levels of happiness before and after significant life events.
According to the study, people can adapt to such events like marriage or death of a spouse, but are mostly unable to return to the previous level of wellbeing after divorce, serious illness and unemployment.
But what became really surprising during the research was the fact that individual factors cannot be underestimated. It was found that those individuals who had quite harmonious long-lasting marriages were disposed to feel happy long before the marriage occurred. This evidence was not observed among those who got divorced, for instance.
The study therefore shows that it is not only our flexibility to life’s ups and downs that plays an important role in our subjective feeling of happiness. The innate individual differences are claimed to overpower personal ability to adaptation.
Mr Kwaji Takwate, an educationist and expert on human psychology based in Mubi, Adamawa State, explains that, ’’ People are happy before an event because they predict how they will feel should it happen the way they wish. So they tend to act to bring what they want to happen. You see, some people try to see themselves enjoying what they expect even before it is actualised. I think they use it as a driving force for their achievement.’’
Takwate argues that this is normal. “Some people celebrate events before they happen. For example, someone promises you some money and you go about happy even before you get it. People are happy before an event. Happier people may have the tendency to celebrate what they expect because they have made that a lifestyle,’’ he says.
Hauwa Ahmed, an expert in human psychology based in Abuja says that, “Human beings possess cognitive abilities and are highly thought-oriented. So the idea of celebrating an event before it happens is a way of determining what a person chooses to be emotional about. People give happiness - pleasant emotions and moods - ultimate value, so they make it a habit to be happy before an expected event.’’