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The Happiness Curve

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  • hatton1 hatton1 
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    Status: Physician
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    Joined: 01/11/2016

    This is an interesting thread.  The video was fantastic.  I find at age 62 that happiness is more contentment.  I also think that the happiness curve is more of a sine wave.  At various times in my life I have been very happy and very sad.  Overall the things you worry about change.  You need to accept that you are not 25 and enjoy whatever phase you are in.  I look for new things to master.

    #240357 Reply
    Avatar JWeb 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 122
    Joined: 02/21/2017
    so this thread is dedicated to q-school who has brought up this concept a few times on here, most recently today: “they did a satisfaction curve internally amongst physicians.  basically the happiest were less than five years out and those five years from retirement.  everyone else was in the dumps.  change in medicine are really, really affecting professional satisfaction among the middle aged.  u shaped curve.” I read a book last year, The Happiness Curve:  Why Life Gets Better After 50, by Jonathan Rauch.  I actually bought it for a friend’s 50th birthday then got curious and read it myself (I bought my own copy, I’m not that cheap!).  It’s about how happiness follows a u-shaped curve in general in humans, with the nadir generally in one’s 40s, and then gradually starts to rise again in your 50s and goes up until old age.  What’s more, this observation has actually held in research in other primates (interesting how they study life satisfaction/happiness in other primates).  He gets into the research on the topic, and points out that people who have had a relatively positive life are sometimes hit harder than this than people who have had a lot of hardships in their youth…it’s kind of like you look at your life and say “my life is great, why am I not feeling happier?” I’ve been thinking about this in conjunction with q-school’s remarks on the data on satisfaction curves in physicians.  We get done with training and just get a few years of actual work under our belts before the downward trajectory of the curve really starts to accelerate.  So our nadir corresponds with our career progression, but it might just be coincidental.  I’m not saying change in medicine hasn’t added to this…but it might be much bigger than that. I would really recommend this book to anyone in their late 30s or 40s who is starting to wonder why they are not as satisfied with life as they think they ought to be, even when everything in their life is going great.  The book resonated with me, especially the parts about looking at what you have accomplished compared with what your 25 year old self thought they would accomplish, and it helped to just realize that this is something that most humans go through, it is a natural phase of life and there are hopefully many years of an increasing life satisfaction curve to look forward to. Would love to hear the perspectives of anyone who has read the book, and especially of those out there on the upswing of the curve.

    Click to expand…

    Anne, you should have your own talk show. (Yes, I am serious)

    #240358 Reply
    legobikes legobikes 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 293
    Joined: 05/25/2017

    The solution to disillusionment is not diving right back in to materiality in novel ways, or shoring up further resources. The glimmer of awakening to your previously unsuspected self-centeredness is not resolved by burying your head back in ‘me’ experiences. The confrontation with mortality is precisely the driver of deep change in perspective and character, not something to be driven away by using money like cotton batting around the newly discovered sharp edges of life. You can’t be happy by rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking ship of what you thought of as the whole of life.

    “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.”

    “The only rich man is the one who is content.”

    And ‘gratitude’ cannot be ‘cultivated’ unless there is a personification of ultimate reality to be grateful to, and a profound sense of the depth of the gifts you have received, not just in the accidents of life such as your wealth or your family, but in your very substance as a human being who has intelligence, will, and the capacity to love. It is a uniquely human ability to confront death and to sense that there is something beyond it. Of course, if your scientistic superstition is that thought comes from meat, or that no meaning inheres in the universe, then you will have a hard time understanding any of this.

    #240362 Reply
    Avatar mapplebum 
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    And ‘gratitude’ cannot be ‘cultivated’ unless there is a personification of ultimate reality to be grateful to, and a profound sense of the depth of the gifts you have received, not just in the accidents of life such as your wealth or your family, but in your very substance as a human being who has intelligence, will, and the capacity to love. It is a uniquely human ability to confront death and to sense that there is something beyond it. Of course, if your scientistic superstition is that thought comes from meat, or that no meaning inheres in the universe, then you will have a hard time understanding any of this.

    Click to expand…

    You can take it there but mine was in a purely humanistic sense. The perspective is that the universe is both beautiful and cruel, and so far as we can tell humans are the only creatures who make such judgments. What do we know? That things are born and then they die. The flaw, which is deeply ingrained in Western culture, is the idea that birth is joy and death is sorrow (the workaround being a belief in redemption, after life, and higher beings). The fact is, we can “cultivate gratitude” for both: what brings joy (or happiness or contentment) and what bring sorrow (or discontentment). Purely because it is lived experience, because we are capable of feeling and processing it, and because our time on earth is limited.

    My personal experience dictates that most discontentment or unhappiness can lead to personal growth. In most situations we can, shall we say, turn a thorn into a sword. But some things, usually personal tragedy or loss, are insurmountable. They will never be fixed. It will never cease to be broken. You would be better off had it never happened. In that case it is helpful to recognize that we need not only be grateful for the things that bring us joy. We can be grateful for all things simply on the basis that it makes up the kaleidoscope of our finite existence.

    #240387 Reply
    Lordosis Lordosis 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 1863
    Joined: 02/11/2019
    One thing that we are also having issues with is that we don’t have family that makes a big effort to spend time with their grandchildren (i.e. watch my kids without us).  Getting them to help us and committing to it is like pulling teeth.

    Click to expand…

    Yup

    They say they want to spend time with the grandkids, but it is a lot of work and I understand that they already raised their kids.

    Click to expand…

    Yup

    grandparents are sooo overrated and vastly underwhelming, you’re lucky if one of them steps up.  best ROI was nanny

    Click to expand…

    I am learning that.

    “Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.”

    #240391 Reply
    Liked by SPlum
    Avatar AZPT 
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    Status: Other Professional
    Posts: 115
    Joined: 02/02/2019

    Very interesting regarding grandparents. We must be very lucky, as both my folks and my wife’s folks are very involved with our kids. ( granted, that’s a two-year-old and a soon to be newborn. Not sure what it will be like in 10 more years).

    #240394 Reply
    Avatar mjohnson 
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    Status: Physician
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    Joined: 05/05/2019

    My irritation is that they always want to “see” the kids on holidays, etc but that is about it.  I had someone tell me some grandparents like to “observe the children”, but not actually spend much time with them.  My favorite was one holiday my folks made a big stink about spending time with them but then when I told them my wife and I would be running errands for an afternoon and they would be in charge the tune changed fast.

     

    It’s not like we are asking for weeks, months at a time.  An afternoon here and there along with a weekend a couple times a year is essentially all we are asking.  We have multiple friends that the grandparents all fight over who/when they get to take the kids for an afternoon, weekend, etc.  I’m so envious of them, good for the kids as well to spend time with family and other adults that are not the parents.

     

    A nanny would be awesome, haven’t explored that yet.

    #240397 Reply
    IntensiveCareBear IntensiveCareBear 
    Spectator
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 235
    Joined: 12/22/2018

    It’s all individual. It is a matter of creating happiness and limiting drama/bs. You get what you allow.

    These curves and averages are neat yet meaningless to individuals. Two guys could have the exact same job and similar friends or family situ yet one is very happy and one borderline suicidal. Happiness is an inside job… do a happiness inventory of what you enjoy, do it as much as possible, and get the grouches out of your life to the fullest extent you can. GL

    “The U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it.” -Benjamin Franklin

    "Hmm, that sounds risky." - motto of the middle class

    #240419 Reply
    Zaphod Zaphod 
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    Status: Physician, Small Business Owner
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    The 75k happiness with money thing is simply patently false and was a bad paper that was extremely taken out of context by media and has essentially become a factoid. The truth is in the beginning more=much more happiness, and it starts to taper the acceleration as it goes up, but, big but, it never flat lines. I think its also just something people would like to believe so it became a thing as well.

    #240443 Reply
    Liked by Kamban, q-school
    Lordosis Lordosis 
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    Splash Refinancing Bonus
    My irritation is that they always want to “see” the kids on holidays, etc but that is about it.  I had someone tell me some grandparents like to “observe the children”, but not actually spend much time with them.  My favorite was one holiday my folks made a big stink about spending time with them but then when I told them my wife and I would be running errands for an afternoon and they would be in charge the tune changed fast.   It’s not like we are asking for weeks, months at a time.  An afternoon here and there along with a weekend a couple times a year is essentially all we are asking.  We have multiple friends that the grandparents all fight over who/when they get to take the kids for an afternoon, weekend, etc.  I’m so envious of them, good for the kids as well to spend time with family and other adults that are not the parents.

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    I know right!  I cannot agree more.  It is like once someone turns 50 they forget how to change a diaper or hold a baby.  I have vowed to my wife many a time that things will be different if we are blessed with grandchildren.  I hope I can make good on this.

     

    To the grandparents out there go pick up the grand-kids for the weekend and give yours kids a break!

    “Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.”

    #240454 Reply
    Liked by JBME
    Avatar JBME 
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    Status: Spouse
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    Joined: 03/26/2018

    we have the same situation here with regards to a grandparent being around but hardly reaching out. Drives us up the wall because then we feel bad every time asking if grandma can babysit. why can’t she just ask? it would show she wants to see her grandkids! but that’s just it…she wants to see them but not take care of them. In her mind she’s done that hard work when she was younger. And she isn’t wrong….

    #240458 Reply
    Liked by Lordosis
    Avatar Anne 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 1175
    Joined: 11/07/2017
    so this thread is dedicated to q-school who has brought up this concept a few times on here, most recently today: “they did a satisfaction curve internally amongst physicians.  basically the happiest were less than five years out and those five years from retirement.  everyone else was in the dumps.  change in medicine are really, really affecting professional satisfaction among the middle aged.  u shaped curve.” I read a book last year, The Happiness Curve:  Why Life Gets Better After 50, by Jonathan Rauch.  I actually bought it for a friend’s 50th birthday then got curious and read it myself (I bought my own copy, I’m not that cheap!).  It’s about how happiness follows a u-shaped curve in general in humans, with the nadir generally in one’s 40s, and then gradually starts to rise again in your 50s and goes up until old age.  What’s more, this observation has actually held in research in other primates (interesting how they study life satisfaction/happiness in other primates).  He gets into the research on the topic, and points out that people who have had a relatively positive life are sometimes hit harder than this than people who have had a lot of hardships in their youth…it’s kind of like you look at your life and say “my life is great, why am I not feeling happier?” I’ve been thinking about this in conjunction with q-school’s remarks on the data on satisfaction curves in physicians.  We get done with training and just get a few years of actual work under our belts before the downward trajectory of the curve really starts to accelerate.  So our nadir corresponds with our career progression, but it might just be coincidental.  I’m not saying change in medicine hasn’t added to this…but it might be much bigger than that. I would really recommend this book to anyone in their late 30s or 40s who is starting to wonder why they are not as satisfied with life as they think they ought to be, even when everything in their life is going great.  The book resonated with me, especially the parts about looking at what you have accomplished compared with what your 25 year old self thought they would accomplish, and it helped to just realize that this is something that most humans go through, it is a natural phase of life and there are hopefully many years of an increasing life satisfaction curve to look forward to. Would love to hear the perspectives of anyone who has read the book, and especially of those out there on the upswing of the curve. 

    Click to expand…

    Anne, you should have your own talk show. (Yes, I am serious)

    Click to expand…

    Haha my husband thinks the same thing.  He’s always telling me to start a YouTube channel.  I hate being videotaped though.

    #240517 Reply
    Avatar Anne 
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    Status: Physician
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    Joined: 11/07/2017

    I think the people responding about why this occurs and how to improve it etc are kind of missing the point.  The argument the book makes, with good research to back it up, is that the happiness curve is a normal biological phenomenon found not only in humans but in other primates.  May even have an evolutionary advantage.  Trying to explain it by attributing it to what else is commonly going in your life at the time is potentially a cognitive error, and telling yourself you can change it might make you feel worse about your life.

    I’m trying to think of an analogy.  The first thing that comes to mind is menarche.  If you are a 12 year old girl who doesn’t understand what’s happening and that this is normal human development and are surrounded by other people who will/are/have gone through the same thing but nobody understands that this is normal across the board you could come up with all sorts of theories.   It happened because you experienced your first crush.  It happened because for the first time in your life you have difficult homework and you’re stressed about it.  It happened because you made the Jr. Varsity field hockey team and swung too hard in practice.  And the 7 year olds will have theories about how they haven’t experienced that so it’s not a thing.  And the 60 year olds will be like yup that happened and it was a pain occasionally but it no longer happens and I’m fine I didn’t bleed to death.  And if you try to control it you’ll just get frustrated.   But if you know that it’s normal it’s no big deal you can handle it better.  Not the best analogy maybe but it’s what I came up with off the top of my head.  Knowing that something is normal, that everyone goes through it, nothing is wrong with you for experiencing it, can be very helpful.

    #240525 Reply
    Liked by mapplebum, CM, G, q-school
    FunkDoc83 FunkDoc83 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 221
    Joined: 04/12/2018
    so this thread is dedicated to q-school who has brought up this concept a few times on here, most recently today: “they did a satisfaction curve internally amongst physicians.  basically the happiest were less than five years out and those five years from retirement.  everyone else was in the dumps.  change in medicine are really, really affecting professional satisfaction among the middle aged.  u shaped curve.” I read a book last year, The Happiness Curve:  Why Life Gets Better After 50, by Jonathan Rauch.  I actually bought it for a friend’s 50th birthday then got curious and read it myself (I bought my own copy, I’m not that cheap!).  It’s about how happiness follows a u-shaped curve in general in humans, with the nadir generally in one’s 40s, and then gradually starts to rise again in your 50s and goes up until old age.  What’s more, this observation has actually held in research in other primates (interesting how they study life satisfaction/happiness in other primates).  He gets into the research on the topic, and points out that people who have had a relatively positive life are sometimes hit harder than this than people who have had a lot of hardships in their youth…it’s kind of like you look at your life and say “my life is great, why am I not feeling happier?” I’ve been thinking about this in conjunction with q-school’s remarks on the data on satisfaction curves in physicians.  We get done with training and just get a few years of actual work under our belts before the downward trajectory of the curve really starts to accelerate.  So our nadir corresponds with our career progression, but it might just be coincidental.  I’m not saying change in medicine hasn’t added to this…but it might be much bigger than that. I would really recommend this book to anyone in their late 30s or 40s who is starting to wonder why they are not as satisfied with life as they think they ought to be, even when everything in their life is going great.  The book resonated with me, especially the parts about looking at what you have accomplished compared with what your 25 year old self thought they would accomplish, and it helped to just realize that this is something that most humans go through, it is a natural phase of life and there are hopefully many years of an increasing life satisfaction curve to look forward to. Would love to hear the perspectives of anyone who has read the book, and especially of those out there on the upswing of the curve. 

    Click to expand…

    Anne, you should have your own talk show. (Yes, I am serious)

    Click to expand…

    Haha my husband thinks the same thing.  He’s always telling me to start a YouTube channel.  I hate being videotaped though.

    Click to expand…

    No problem, I’ve got a workaround for that, just wear a mask or disguise!  Youtube channel here we come.

    #240530 Reply
    Liked by Anne
    Avatar Brains428 
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    Joined: 11/09/2017

    If you’re into podcasts, a recent episode of “Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard” interviews Tal Ben-Shahar, a positive psychologist and previous professor of the Harvard class on happiness.

     

    #240532 Reply
    Liked by Anne

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