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It refers to how we predict our future emotions and how certain life events will affect them.
We’re generally pretty bad at it—and that impacts our productivity, our goal setting, and our overall happiness
The main barriers to accurate affective forecasting:
We are not very good at guessing how we'll feel in the future. In predicting how we will feel in the future, we commonly use the past experience as a guide.
But our brain favours the extreme and most recent events. We tend to focus on the main features of an event and less on the journey to get there. This means that we won't always make the best decisions about our lives.
We overestimate the strength of our emotions in the future.
Studies show that people overestimated their happiness at winning and their disappointment at losing because they forgot all the other things that would happen in a day that would influence their mood.
A lottery winner, for instance, won't spend every day celebrating their win. Nor will someone with a disabling accident spend all their time in shock.
When imagining either situation, we like to think that the feelings will be long-lasting. We forget that we will adapt and that the feeling will eventually wear off.
The level of happiness is part of our genetic makeup - we have a set level and cannot rise above or fall below it.
Some scientists envision the day that we can manipulate our happiness genes with precise nanoscale technologies. These mood bots will travel inside us to a part of the brain and manually turn on genes to up or down our happiness set point. But, scientists assure us that we are more than biology and that a mood bot will not guarantee happy and satisfying lives.
Happiness has always been difficult to quantify because it is subjective, depending on if you have a short- or a long-term outlook on life. Recently, researchers have started to distinguish between two types of happiness:
People will always be happy when they see their children prosper when they feel loved, secure, and well-fed.
But, this formula for happiness is so obvious that most people dismiss it. They would rather look for a secret ingredient. The answer is that there is no secret.