Articles in English

News from happiness research. Happiness that doesn’t get boring.

We recently came across an interview with neurobiologist Gerhard Roth in the online magazine „Spiegel +“. The topic: „There is only one kind of happiness that you don’t get bored with“.

In the following, we would like to 1) explain the types of happiness distinguished by Roth and 2) ask you which attitude towards life can lead to lasting happiness. In the survey section, compare your opinion with that of others.

1) Different types of happiness according to Roth. We need to distinguish between:

Happiness

According to Roth, happiness is a short-term result of the brain’s reward process. Triggers can be, e.g: sex, alcohol, drugs, extreme sports, salary increase, unexpected profit, falling in love, a new job offer, etc. All of these moments of happiness have one thing in common: they are transient and may cause us to fall back into a feeling of unhappiness. Dissatisfied people tend to search harder for these triggers of happiness. They wander around hoping that happiness is just around the next corner. According to Roth, they are in constant, diffuse, undirected search for happiness, or rather, short-term happiness triggers.

Intrinsic happiness

According to Roth, intrinsic happiness is happiness where you enjoy what you are doing or experiencing from within. Learning, hearing, or seeing something new. Enjoying work, listening to music, a good conversation, collaborating on something meaningful. They say that this happiness does not go into saturation – that is, you don’t get tired of it. If you enjoy your job and it provides gratification, you will continue to enjoy doing it and sense happiness. In these moments, the feeling of happiness is linked to contentment in life, so the feeling of happiness is more long-term. These are the phases in which you, for example, get into a „flow“ and can „work around the clock“. In which artists write operas or symphonies within a month, or the motivation experienced by a scientist who loves his field of research above everything else. But even this kind of happiness can come to an end, according to Roth. The creative frenzy can subside – once the work, or the research project, is finished, the artist is empty, the scientist depleted.

Contentment in life

According to Roth, contentment in life is not happiness; these are two completely different things. According to Roth, they are also processed in different neurobiological systems. Contentment in life is an attitude towards life – a fundamental personality trait. Content is someone who has a pronounced stress management and has developed the ability to calm himself down. A person who is content does not need to win the lottery and does not want to become a superstar overnight. He is content with what he has. According to Roth, this attitude towards life is formed in our earliest childhood years and remains relatively stable throughout life. We can consciously change our attitude towards life, however, the older we get, the harder it becomes.

2) Can we consciously change our satisfaction in life? What do you think? Please choose the most suitable response!

The poll is on German, but you may find the translation of the possible answers here below. If you want to participate in the poll, please just remember the lower case character of the answer you would give and click the same in the German poll below. Afterwards you may compare your answer with the answers others have already provided.

a) I think Roth is wrong when he says that we can consciously change our life contentment. It is rather the external circumstances, i.e. our upbringing, the events in our life, which affect our life satisfaction and shape it permanently. We ourselves do not play a major role in this.
 
b) I think Roth is wrong when he says that we can consciously change our life contentment. Even if we were able to consciously change our life satisfaction for a period of time, it can happen that our current attitude towards life changes in an instant due to external circumstances. Examples: Life crises, traumas, death of a loved one, etc.
 
c) I think Roth is right when he says that we can consciously change our life contentment. The best way to do that is to get into the habit of looking more at those who are less fortunate than us in our daily lives. For example, if we are chronically ill, we could compare ourselves with people who are worse off, rather than with those who are in good health.
 
d) I think Roth is right when he says that we can consciously change our life contentment. We can do this best if we get into the habit of seeing the positive even out of negative events. An example: we break our leg and use this involuntary „time out“ to learn something new or to deepen a certain skill, or, or … – something we would not have done otherwise, because we would not have had the time.
 
e) I think Roth is right when he says that we can consciously change our life contentment. The best way to do this is to get into the habit of looking at life as an opportunity for development rather than as a place where as many of our desires as possible are to be satisfied. An example: we suffer a material loss and instead of complaining, we take this as an occasion and perhaps even as an indication to rethink our attitude and to put more importance on other things in our life that are not as „fleeting“.
 
f) I think Roth is right when he says that we can consciously change our life contentment. We can do this best if we get into the habit  of acting as much as possible in accordance with our conscience and try to accept the result of our decisions, whether it „tastes“ good to us or not. An example: we are faced with the dilemma of either using our vacation money to financially support a family member who is in financial troubles or using it for our vacation.
 
g) I think Roth is right when he says that we can consciously change our life contentment. We can do this best if we get into the habit of always keeping the welfare of others in mind. An example: an elderly gentleman boards the train and all seats are occupied. Since we have no health problems , we offer him our seat.
 
h) I think Roth is right when he says that we can consciously change our life contentment. We can do this best if we get into the habit of looking out for our own benefit. An example: we donate a large sum of money to a charitable organization and make sure that everyone notices this in order to receive recognition.
 
i) None of the answers coincide with my opinion and attitude towards life.
 

Welche der möglichen Antworten deckt sich am besten mit Ihrer eigenen Meinung und Lebenseinstellung?
AbstimmenErgebnisse

Do you not find yourself in the answers? Then write to us by email to info@ethica-rationalis.org or use our Contactform.

We also want to point out two more articles on the topic of happiness on our website:

The small happiness – how gratitude can change our lives (part 1) and (part 2). Here you will also find more thoughts on this topic.

Authors: The Ethica Rationalis editorial team

Comments:

Anonymous – Sunday, 12. September 2021 at 10:12

„Hello,
I think that another very important point in finding contentment in one’s own life is to consciously
focus on all the good things that happen to you or you succeed in every day (even small things
like the sun, a nice greeting, a friendly gesture, something that went well) or the strengths and
abilities that one has. Gratitude also plays an important role.
 
It is also an important and powerful psychotherapeutic intervention method often used in
therapies (the so-called sun or friend diary in which you consciously focus on the good things
that happen every day and write down at least three of them in a diary, „negative“ or unpleasant
events are deliberately not written down).
 
Thank you for the nice article.“