Recently, while working, I had a moment of utter joy when I witnessed and experienced someone do something so well and with such care, consideration and connection for a friend, that I was touched… Let me explain some more…

I was touched. I like that sensation a lot.

For a moment, I realised that my day, the previous day and previous week had been punctuated with many such moments, maybe not quite so profound, but there were a string of wonderful moments.

I often refer to a notion of panning for gold at the end of the day and remembering all the good stuff that happened that day and spending some time to focus upon it and remind yourself how good life is… It would seem that psychological research is on my side with this notion too! Let me explain…

You know what I mean when I refer to those ever increasing circles in a pond, right? Just like when you chuck a pebble into a pond, the ripples gradually lose momentum as they spread out and increase and soon the pond resumes it’s stillness and calmness… The same happens if you attempt to buck this theory and chuck in a boulder!

This piece of psychological research at Science Direct shows that people’s general sense of happiness is stubbornly immovable, regardless of how good or bad the experiences one endures… Hmmm… Maybe not such encouraging news for all reading this, you may think…

This capacity to adapt to life circumstances and return to baseline levels of happiness is actually rather reassuring in the face of life’s unpleasant events or experiences…  the not so reassuring implication though is that we may not be able to dramatically improve our general level of happiness… Uh-oh.

According to the piece of research conducted by Daniel Mochon and colleagues, this is not the full story… Phew!

What they have tested is the idea that whereas rare, massive uplifting events have no lasting effect on prolonged levels of happiness, the cumulative effect of lots of little boosts may well have the power to influence happiness over the longer-term… Now we’re talking… Yay!

Ok, with regards to the research itself, an initial study questioned the happiness of 2,095 participants as they were either entering or leaving a place of worship. Across 12 different religious denominations, the results were the same: those people questioned after a religious service were happier than those questioned before. Moreover, the more times a person said they’d attended a service in the last month (the average was four times), the happier they tended to be.

A second study found similar results for people attending a gym or yoga class. Again, those questioned on leaving were happier than those questioned on arrival. Moreover, the more times someone reported going to the gym in the last month, the happier they were.

Our findings imply that, in contrast to the notion of an inescapable hedonic treadmill, it is not pointless for people to seek to improve their well-being,” the researchers said. “However, improvement may not come from major events such as winning the lottery, despite the seemingly life-changing nature of such examples. Rather it seems like the key for long lasting changes to well-being is to engage in activities that provide small and frequent boosts, which in the long run will lead to improved well-being, one small step at a time.

With myself, I then tend to believe that with our own self-improvement and personal development, if we regularly step back and appreciate the things we have to be happy about, however minor they may initially appear, then we keep a consistency that is likely to aid our general level of happiness over time… Therefore, if any of my current students are reading this… You are going to be in my thoughts consistently more than you realise 🙂