Do we really want or desire happiness? At the first glance, this question seems contra-intuitive and meaningless to ask as we assume that happiness is what we want and desire the uttermost. According to Lacan, our fantasies have to be unrealistic. Because the moment, the second that you get what you seek, you don’t, you can’t want it anymore.

In order to continue to exist, desire must have its objects perpetually absent. It is not the “it” that you want, it is the fantasy of “it”. So, desire usually supports crazy fantasies…

According to Pascal, we are only truly happy when daydreaming about future happiness. Meaning to say, ‘the hunt is sweeter than the kill’. Or, be careful what you wish for, not because you will get it…but because you are doomed not to want it once you do.

So the lesson of Lacan is: Living by your wants will never make you happy. The scientific word for this phenomenon is “Hedonic adaptation”: you quickly get used to better circumstances (your ‘perfect’ partner, your new job and promotion, etc…), losing the capacity to enjoy them.
Recent research points to four strategies that can help us not getting used to it, our perceived happiness:

Jordi Quoidbach, one of a recent study in Social, Psychological, and Personality Science, recommends a ‘temporary-deprivation strategy, f example committing yourself going without your favorite food or activity (shopping) for a few weeks’.
What you get: this will help you to savor and appreciate it more when you have it and you will be way more grateful for it than before leading to greater happiness!

2. REVISIT YOUR LIFE without what you think you desire and for the brave, going one step further: Try living as you did before having all your desires fulfilled! Research has shown that we tend to take things and people around us for granted. Meaning to say, we quickly adapt to the ‘new norms’ and launch new rockets of desires just as quick… Because we take things for granted: Try to picture your life without an improvement!!! In her book, The Myths of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky advises: Try living as you did when you were a starving and poor student, going without ALL your electronid gadgets, without phoning your best friend, without indulging in all your comfortable activities. Your reward: You will learn to appreciate you, your life and your good fortune all the more!

In order not to get used to your happiness or adjust to quick to something good, by interrupting a pleasurable activity, even for a minute or so, will make it more enjoyable!
This applies to everything from massages to TV-shows…. Even time-off! Hot tip: Try multiple short trips rather than one long, suggests Quoidbach. Your reward: You will hold on to that happy feeling longer and perceive a much greater sense of happiness than without taking breaks! You will now be in a lower risk of adapting to your happiness!

4. RELISH AMATEUR STATUS- Don’t be an expert of anything! New research indicates that if you consider yourself an expert of anything-from gourmet food to traveling- you will savor it less! So, don’t take yourself to seriously, take a chill-pill  You will be rewarded with a burst of happiness before you know it…

So, now you don’t have to try to be happier, but you can be Happy


*see for the theme of hedonic adaptetion also Psychology Today, December 2013