Happiness Thermostat

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-19-2012
Happiness Thermostat
Wed, 11-07-2012 - 5:38pm

My husband insists on putting the thermostat down as low as possible in the summer AND the winter.  In the summer, he wants the rooms as chilly as possible and in the winter, he’s comfortable in a cool room. I’m the polar opposite of him.  In the winter, I’m constantly freezing and want the heat up as high as possible.  In the summer, I’m constantly freezing in air conditioning and don’t want cold air blowing on me. Apparently, my internal thermostat is quite different than his.


Our “happiness thermostat” also couldn’t be more opposite. My happiness thermostat is set on “happy” 97% of all the days of the year.  When I dip from that set point, I bounce back fairly quick.  I’m sorry to say that the same can’t be said about him.  There are dramatic ups and downs from day to day and I don’t see anything close to my degree of happiness.  He has a more subdued feeling that probably translates to “life is pretty good but I don’t want to say it’s great because something could happen to change that and then I would be VERY unhappy”.


According to a happiness theory, each one of you has a distinct set point of happiness.  You hover back and forth around that set point but you basically stay in that specific range your whole life.  In a society that is obsessed with finding happiness, it’s important to think about this bit of information I just shared.  Looking back on your life, do you see the pattern of your happiness?  Of course there’s ups and downs when you hit some trying times in your life, but basically, day to day, what is your happiness thermostat set on?


Why are there people that have very few material possessions, yet are able to find a way to be happy? How do they find happiness when the odds are stacked against them? Don’t they know how miserable they should be? On the other hand, I’ve seen women that look like they possess everything that they would ever desire in life and yet they’re still miserable. They’re terribly unhappy and they search for the “thing” that will bring them happiness.


Maybe part of the problem is how we view happiness.  If you view happiness in life as a constant state of bliss, you may be getting closer to why you’re not “finding it”.  Life isn’t all about one perfect, fabulous day after another. There are days that are trying, stressful and hard work but you can still be happy. Not that “crazy with excitement” happy, but an “I am satisfied and appreciate life and everyone in it” happy.


There is a need for us to permanently change our way of thinking about that five-letter word. Accept that there are going to be down times in your life when you’re sad. Sad doesn’t mean depressed.  There’s a big difference between sad and depressed and our society often forgets that. Depressed is a serious condition while sad is an important universal feeling that all of us come to know now and then. Between you and me, I think we live in a society that’s terrified of being sad.  We’ll do anything to feel “happy” again.  Readjust your thinking on this and get comfortable with knowing you can feel sad in a situation and it’s not the end of the world. It’s just a part of life.


I hope you’re thinking about your own thermostat and how you can make some positive changes that will help you find a place of happiness. That ecstatic blissed out feeling happens now and then in your life, but that feeling of appreciation for being alive, that satisfaction with your family and friends— that’s the “happy” you need to come to expect in your life.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-20-2012
Thu, 11-15-2012 - 2:42pm

Is it possible to reach the age of 46 and not know what 'happy' is?  Is it possible that - maybe I knew what it was once but its been so long I just don't remember? I know its bad that the only time I even get close anymore is when I think of death and the reilief it will bring - and then I almost think I could be happy.  I'm so tired of feeling like this I just want it to all be over.  I can barely function anymore and I don't know how to change it.  Don't tell me counseling - I tried that and it was the biggest waste of time and money I ever indulged in.  And I have neither time or money to waste on that again.  I just want to crawl into a hole and pull something over me and never come out again.  I am out of town, in a strange place, no one would even notice if I faded away......  I hate my life and God won't grant me the death I've prayed for - for years and I just don't even want happy anymore.  I want done.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-02-2008
Sat, 11-10-2012 - 11:00am

Personally I am not sure there is such a thing as being happy.. Maybe content and happy when things are going well. My experience is that I do know that material things did not make me happy.. They did bring comfort but not happiness. When I was married I had most of the material things but my marriage was abusive.. When I left my husband I started to focus more on what was important to me like friends, family and doing simple things.. Yes; I still had a life but it wasnt as complicated as my life before.. It was like when I took a walk in the park and noticed the beautiful surroundings and the abundance around me I was happy and filled with a level of contentment.. When I sat at dinner with family and celebrated someone's birthday and surrounded by love I was happy.. When I visited the beach and watched the waves crash and feel the sun on me I was happy.. It was and is always the little small things that make me happy even to this day..

Some days its tough to focus on the small and simple things but then God reminds me.. I am not a hurricane evacuee due to Hurricane Sandy and cant go back home yet and I am at a friends and doing okay.. What this reminds me of is how I miss my friends and my day to day routine and activities I did when I was in my own space. Its the little things we take for granted.. and all of these lessons are learned..

take care