Most of us know there is a “secret service” in our bodies called our Immune System that constantly battles the bad bugs that come our way. Have you ever given much thought to your “Psychological Immune System?” Turns out we have some internal protection when it comes to happiness too!
Dan Gilbert, the author of the book “Stumbling on Happiness,” challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.
See if you think this concept is truly thought-provoking and a tool you could use every day!
Over 13 million people have viewed this and it is one of the top 5 most popular TED Talks ever! We think you’ll like it as much as we do. (Take a minute. Slow down and enjoy this with a nice beverage.) Enjoy!
Our frequent readers know how much we love TED. With all of the incredible insight they foster into the world, how can you not? TED.com is one of the most interesting corners of the web, and EWC features the best of their talks a couple of times each month. If I do say so myself, EWC and TED are the only places I have found where smart people, curious and hopeful, can always come away transformed. If you want to see more thought-provoking TED Talks, check out some of our favorites here!
Wonderful insights there!
I might have thought that happiness was purely an outcome of the coping skills we’ve each developed over the course of our individual lives. The fact that happiness is connected to something that all of us have in common, and have access to, is something worth pondering.
Lessons from the Surprising Science of Happiness…
So we all have a primal brain mechanism to help us synthesize the same magnitude of happiness, no matter our experiences?
I love Mr. Gilbert’s quote:
“We synthesize happiness and yet we think happiness is something to be found.”
And yet so many people tend to be on a great search for happiness. They live with an “I’ll be happy when…” mentality.
I’ve known people who live with every possible toy, with two homes, with healthy kids and great marriages, and yet they pin their happiness on specific goals and outcomes. When all along, they might have been truly happy long ago.
How can we apply this insight in our own lives?
Here’s one more Dan Gilbert quote to ponder from the TED Talk:
“Our longings and our worries are both, to some degree largely overblown, because we have within us the capacity to manufacture the very comodity we are constantly chasing when we choose our experience.”
I suspect those last 5 words are key to our understanding the potential here “…when we choose our experience.”
The key is understanding that we can choose the story we tell ourselves about our experiences. We don’t have to just blindly follow our impulses into the ditch.
We can synthesize a deep appreciation for most outcomes if we choose to.
The photo at right is a great example in my own life.
That is my husband and EWC co-founder, Dr. Chuck, holding our one-pound baby daughter, born four and a half months early.
In that photo, she has been taken out of the incubator for the first time at ten days old. Her diaper was the size of a playing card folded in half. The day she was born, we were told she had less than 1% chance of surviving to be a healthy, smart young woman.
And yet look at my husband’s beaming “proud father” smile!
There is no trace of hopelessness or dread.
And I remember exactly why: by day 10 we knew we had no choices. Just as Dan Gilbert tells us, with no other options, we focused on the thing we could control, which was our perspective.
We had to make the best of a very bad situation, tell ourselves a different story and act in a way that added light to the situation, not gloom.
And would you believe it: that baby did grow up to be a smart, perfectly healthy woman who just started college, and she already has a patent on a completely new type of wind turbine technology she invented!
Do you have a story in your own life…
Perhaps one where your back was to the wall and you called upon this built-in psychological immune system Think about it a few minutes. You might have some examples of your own to build upon if you want to hone this insight into a solid habit.
Want to take this question of happiness to the next level?
This insight seems to fit perfectly with a couple of other articles we’ve written on happiness that you might like to dive into.
The first is a very funny and insightful piece about finding The Secret to Happiness at Work, and the other is about What Makes Us Happy. (That second article is about the Tibetan monk that Dan Gilbert referred to (in good humor) in his comment about the monks in a mall.) Both are very special pieces of the puzzle of happiness.
Check out the first one if you only have a little more time. It’s very funny and insightful.
And as to this telling ourselves stories….
One of our most popular articles is called “What Fear Can Teach Us.” Check that out if you’d like to have more insights into managing the meaning of things. There’s a brilliant insight in the video-share in that article that we use almost every day in our working lives.
Meanwhile, stay open, curious and hopeful!
~ Dr. Lynda
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