According to Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist and author of the book, Stumbling on Happiness, synthetic happiness is the happiness we create when we don’t get what we want. And, we believe that synthetic happiness will never measure up to natural happiness—the “true” happiness we experience when things go our way. Not so!
According to Gilbert, “we have within us the capacity to manufacture the very commodity [happiness] we are constantly chasing when we choose experiences.”
Yes, we actually create our own happiness.
Unfortunately, we often don’t recognize this fact. And, ironically, we believe that freedom to choose is the key to our happiness when in reality, when we are forced a certain lot, we actually do find a way to be happy with it. In fact, research shows that after one year, those who have become paralyzed and those who have won the lottery experience the same level of happiness. Of course if you ask someone in advance which experience will make them happy, 100% say winning the lottery.
It turns out it’s just how our brains are wired.
I believe this is a good thing—a protective mechanism if you will—in a world where so much of our experience is out of out control. Yet we always have control over how we choose to deal with the experiences life deals us.
This research is right in line with other research that indicates that only 10% of our happiness is determined by our circumstances. The lion’s share is determined by our attitudes toward our circumstances.
In this TED video, Daniel Gilbert elaborates on research and findings about synthetic happiness.
It’s 21 minutes long but it’s well worth a watch.