June 11, 2015

The Happiness Dilemma: How to Balance Long- and Short-term Happiness


By Amanda Fernandes, Project Happiness Regional Director, Caribbean

Self-help books are becoming increasingly popular. Thousands are published each year, fuelling a USD $10 billion industry, and Brainblogger.com has even noted that most purchasers of this type of literature would have made a similar purchase within the last 18 months. So, with all of this information on Happiness at our fingertips, why does it still seem so elusive?

The answer lies in the individual’s ability to achieve the ideal balance between the two incarnations of Happiness: short-term and long-term.

As the jargon implies, short-term happiness is fleeting, characterised by an immediate feeling of pleasure or contentment that eventually fades. It’s the temporary joy experienced from purchasing a pair of designer shoes or eating a forbidden slice of cake. While long-term happiness offers a more authentic and lasting sense of fulfilment. It’s the sustainable pleasure that comes from building healthy relationships with your family and friends, discovering your true calling or simply being happy with who we are.

Both have their own significance and both are necessary for us to enjoy life, but striking a healthy balance is necessary to ensure that we don’t succumb to the temptation of instant gratification to the detriment of enduring satisfaction.

Here are 4 suggestions on how you can overcome the greatest of Happiness dilemmas – balancing long-term and short-term Happiness.

Practice looking ahead

shutterstock_203790058copySet goals for yourself and monitor your progress. Get creative! A fun way of keeping track of your goals is by creating a vision board, this can be a physical board or an virtual one on Pinterest. Every time you think about having that bag of chips or that slice of cheesecake, look ahead to how great you’ll look and feel in your Carnival costume if you DON’T have it.

Be realistic

shutterstock_246063031You may be very eager to achieve your goal, however setting unrealistic timelines may result in disappointment. Yes, you’re trying to kick an old habit but resist the urge to go cold turkey. Instead of forcing yourself to stop eating cheesecake altogether, maybe limit yourself to one piece every couple of weeks. Perhaps you can use it as a reward for achieving a certain milestone.

Allow yourself some wiggle room

shutterstock_133717946We all need a shot of happiness from time to time so set a budget for when you feel the need to satisfy these cravings. Each month allocate a fixed amount of money for discretionary spending. This can be used for your magazines, ice cream, books, video games or whatever brings you joy.

Be fair to yourself

shutterstock_150103214Love yourself no matter what – we all make mistakes and we all have shortcomings but don’t let this dull your sparkle. Avoid beating yourself up over things you cannot change; don’t dwell on the bad grade that you received in your final exam but rather look for ways to improve on it next time. In the end what really matters if our ability to consistently focus on the positive that life has to offer.

Always remember that Happiness is a personal journey and your path to it need not be not lined with self-help books. Apply these 4 simple tips to your everyday life and find the balance between long-term and short-term happiness that works best for YOU.