At the beginning of 2020, no one would have dreamed of how we live today. Right now we cannot enjoy most of our hobbies, we must meet as few people as possible and we are obliged to cover our nose and mouth with masks, we look forward to our turn in vaccination and we have to deal with pandemic-deniers and their supporters.
If we were asked a year ago how we would feel about it, many of us would probably answer: This life is unbearable.
Of course, it’s definitely not cool.
But most of us are not constantly devastated, we have already accepted the situation and found joy in what is still possible or in what we have left. Humans are biologically adjustable to get used to stimuli and situations – good and bad.
“The truth is, bad things don’t affect us as much as we might expect. The same also applies to good things ”, a conclusion by the American psychologist Daniel Gilbert from several research results.
In the case of negative events, our “psychological adaptation system” helps us find our way back to a life considered normal, even if it is completely different from the previous normal life. We get used to it easily, and this is useful, though scary.
If, after a breakup, we discover that the partner was not the right person, our psychological defense mechanisms are often behind this shift in perspective, this shift in point of view. But look at something fundamentally important, it was the subjective point of view and not the objective facts that initially made the partner look like the person of the dreams.
However, people are hardly aware of how much their inner workings influence the perceived reality. This has serious consequences for decision-making. These cognitive filters help to accommodate the perception of reality and to respond to your demands in a conditioned way.
On positive and negative events, when we are faced with the emotional decision to get involved with a new acquaintance, make him the next partner, we base that decision on predicting whether that person will make us happy or not. However, we are bad at making predictions about your future happiness or unhappiness: we overestimate how unhappy the unwanted pregnancy test result will make us; students overestimate how much leaving their parents’ home affects their happiness; people overestimate how unhappy they will be two months after the breakup.
We tend to build a negative vision of the future more easily, even foreseeing solutions and suffering that will never happen or will be unnecessary. These wrong predictions can prevent us from making good decisions.
To objectively examine how well predictions correspond to real changes in satisfaction, research studies compare the predictions of a group, for example, people in relationships, with statements by other groups that actually live in a particular situation after a breakup.
Researchers from Switzerland, always concerned with satisfaction and happiness, evaluated long-term data from more than 180,000 people. The data comes from people who were asked annually about their overall satisfaction with life and who were also asked to predict how satisfied they will be in five years.
The researchers examined how far-reaching life events, such as the loss of a partner, unemployment, illness, marriage, separation, or divorce, affect life satisfaction. Result: a strong effect can be seen soon after the passage of these great events through life. Although people correctly predict that the change will not last, they often underestimate their adaptability. Anyone who lost a partner whose satisfaction with life was high – contrary to his own predictions – three years later was just as well as before the loss.
The same is true of other significant events, even with paraplegia and lottery wins. One might think that this is due to our lack of experience with such events. But even with daily and recurring events, like buying decisions or Christmas holidays, our predictions about the consequences are bad.
Other factors play an important role in this process. For example, we do not consciously use past experiences to evaluate these predictions for the future. Smaller events from the past, such as a family fight at Christmas, are part of the development of the frameworks of experience that we use to readjust, but they are not consciously taken into account during the process of making predictions. But they will serve during the real process of reconstructing normality, in solving the problems of reality.
We like to forget those small individual events that rarely overshadow everyday life. Of course, you are happy when your favorite football club wins. On the day of the game, you may still be angry with the neighbors
noisy eyes or with a stain on his pants, but he will hardly spend the whole day stumbling on the streets or shouting at his neighbor. The small events pass in a degree of almost apperception in the daily carousel, but add a lot of experience to our repertoire.
Another fundamental factor that we do not pay attention to is that satisfaction cannot be improved permanently when we look at the outside world, we simply cannot make bank account numbers change on our own, for example, let alone change others and their attitudes.
Anyway, in another quite good opposite, life satisfaction seems to depend less on external circumstances than is generally thought. There are numerous indications that our satisfaction with life is largely determined genetically, in the first place, but also by education.
Thus, the first experiences of life are decisive and also play a significant role in this process. Genetics creates a favorable field, while life experiences form the functional repertoire for satisfaction.
However, although satisfaction cannot be improved from the external life port, satisfaction is still relatively stable throughout life. Even if only positive things have happened to us – a salary increase after another, a success after another, our demands and expectations increase, which leads us to the frenzy much earlier in the lifeline, let’s take everything for granted at some point in life. Frustrating, then, is essential to balance satisfaction.
Our satisfaction cannot be maximized in the long run. But the habituation effect can be undermined by an inability to accept or understand frustrations. Researchers have shown that everyday activities are more enjoyable when performed in new ways. For example: eating popcorn with chopsticks instead of with your hands (silly but enlightening example). With this view, it is easily understood that the change, whether caused by positive or negative events, will generate readaptations whose results can almost always be positive in the lifeline, as we are driven to experience the new and thus expand horizons.
Often, we just recognize our adaptability in retrospect and, instead, we wait for external changes that will make us happier for a short period of time in the present or the future, only to get bothered/used to new things again and maintain this cycle of change. frustration and development.
In a few years, the data will show whether we are also overestimating the impact of the pandemic on our satisfaction. In any case, the latest World Happiness Report shows remarkable stability in life satisfaction in 149 countries, despite Covid-19.
In the meantime, we can take advantage of the findings of other research: Don’t wait for the next opening or the next Lockdown. Focus on areas of life that are not affected by the pandemic – they definitely exist. Looking for something new in the familiar, in every day, in the day-to-day. Think not only of our physical immune system but also of our psychological one.