There are people who dread Christmas because of all the enforced happiness. The gifts, the music, the worship are all supposed to make you happy, but a lot of people find themselves pretending.
And a researcher by the name of Shimon Edelman, a professor of psychology who specializes in computer models of the brain has been investigating why that happens.
He says that happiness, like every other emotion, performs an evolutionary function. It’s function is to constantly make you want something more out of life.
“Happiness is good stimulus in the old Latin sense of a stick with which you poke your oxen. Species that get rewarded in this manner will be happy on occasion, by the way not all the time, because if you reward some behavior all the time, the reward loses it’s value,” says Edelman.
Which is why it never lasts. He says that in essence we are programmed to be unsatisfied.
The mind is always calculating where you are and where you should be based on stored memories and experiences. It will automatically create a virtual reality picture of who you are.
The good news is that Professor Edelman believes you can use your will to manipulate that picture, at least a little, such that if you have feeling of unhappiness that won’t go away – you can change your mood by setting aside some time once a week to deliberately reinforce positive memories.
“Count your blessings once a week,” says Edelman.
But no more than that – because too much of a good thing – is a bad thing.