Last year, a trek on the interwebs led me to a fascinating Ted Talk by Dan Gilbert (author of Stumbling on Happiness). It was all about… well, you already know, since you read the title of this post.
synthetic happiness
While I confess to a hidden taste for Twizzlers, I generally try to stay away from synthetics. All natural is the way to go, right?
Gilbert says “no.” And he says it for good reason. The basic premise of his talk, crafted from a purely scientific viewpoint, was that there are two kinds of happiness. “Natural happiness” occurs when we happen to get what we want. “Synthetic happiness” is what we make when we don’t get what we want.
Our culture idolizes “natural” happiness. Every ad, every television show, every news program spins on the idea that we’re far better off getting what we want than having to live without.
But research is proving that the “synthetic” happiness we create when things don’t go our way is every bit as real and deep as “natural” happiness. So when we idolize “natural” happiness, we completely miss the opportunity to synthesize our own happiness.
Take this example: In one study, individuals had to select, from several items, one item to keep. One group had to make their choice and live with it. The other group had the freedom to change their minds and come back to choose a different item any time they wanted. Days later, who was happiest with what they’d chosen?
The people who had to make a choice and live with it.
Go figure. Whether or not they’d made the “best” choice, they chose to be happy with it. They synthesized happy.
And it was real.
Sneak peek: In December, we’ll be talking about JOY—choosing to be happy, even when things don’t go your way. Sounds a bit like synthetic happiness. And a lot like Paul, who said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say it: rejoice!”
We may be a long way from Christmas, but summer is right around the corner. Big events, vacations, crazy volunteer schedules. Let’s just say: it’s not all going to go your way. Or the way your kids would like. And when it doesn’t… well, think about synthesizing some happy.
Have you seen this idea at work in your life? Or the lives of kids you parent or mentor?