Delayed happiness defines a mental condition experienced by many of us. It is that condition that leads us to say phrases like: “My life will be better when I finally change my job”, “When the holidays come, I will do the things I like so much”, “When I pass the exam, I will be able to be with people that I miss them so much “, etc.
Why do we say these things? Because our brain thinks that everything will get better when we do or accomplish certain things. But what is the mechanism by which we force ourselves to postpone our well-being and our pleasure? Many will say that it is pure and simple self-need, others that all these behaviors are nothing more than an effective way of self-sabotage.
Pausing our happiness by thinking that the future will hold better things for us is a form of fabulation. It is a way of obscuring our present and being blinded by the mirage of an ideal tomorrow.
“If I had more money, I’d be happy”, “Until I lose weight, I won’t go to the beach anymore”. This way of thinking builds an invisible wall that completely distorts the true meaning of the word “happiness”.
Delayed happiness, a miscalculation that is bad for your health
We live in a time when part of our thoughts and desires are preceded by the word “If”. “If I had more money, everything would be better”, “If I got that promotion at work, I would have better status and show others what I am capable of”, “If I were more attractive, I would find a partner more easily”. So set up, each of these phrases causes us unnecessary suffering that takes us away from our well-being.
Psychology defines this reality as the delayed happiness syndrome. This definition identifies a behavior whereby a human being is always waiting for a specific circumstance to happen. It is clear that, at times, this waiting is justified, especially when we invest time and effort to get something concrete: “I limit my social life to study because my goal is to pass the exam”.
In this case, postponing certain activities has a reasonable explanation and purpose. However, delayed happiness syndrome occurs when the purpose is neither reasonable nor logical. In these cases, any argument goes against ourselves and feeds discomfort and suffering. An example would be when it is Monday and we are already thinking about the weekend. Another could be someone who thinks that everything will get better when he loses weight and changes his physical appearance.
Those who postpone and those who postpone do so because they do not accept or are not happy with the present moment or because they do not care or do not know how to exploit the potential of the “here and now”.
Why do we postpone our happiness?
As widespread as the term happiness may be, from a psychological point of view it is very easy to define. It means accepting, loving, being good to yourself and being happy with what you have. It means having a purpose in life, having a good social support network and effective mental resources to cope with difficulties. Nothing more and nothing less. Delayed happiness hides a number of specific psychological conditions:
- Dissatisfaction with one’s person and possessions. The person always wants something that is missing, something that he thinks is better than what he has.
- Behind the need to pause one’s happiness, thinking that something better will come, there is fear. Fear of facing what hurts at a given moment leads to insecurity and not having the courage to change what we don’t like. All this must be resolved in the “here and now”, with responsibility and courage.
Delayed happiness, the horse running after a carrot it cannot reach
Clive Hamilton, a professor of philosophy at Charles Sturt University in Australia, wrote a study called The deferred happiness syndrome in which he exposes some very interesting concepts. According to him, it is the current society that transforms us into that horse that never manages to reach the carrot.
We are always looking for something intangible that we rarely manage to achieve, but that we strongly desire. And we want it because we are not happy. The causes of this discomfort are work, the conditions in which we live, the consumer society that makes us believe incessantly that we need certain things to be well (for example, a better phone, an item of clothing of a certain brand, a new car, etc.).
Another factor is the short time we have available. We have little time to connect with ourselves, for our hobbies or for the people we love. According to Dr. Hamilton, we should be a little bolder, be more daring and make new decisions to achieve well-being and lead a life more in line with our tastes and needs. We have to stop running and think about tomorrow. We need to stop and find ourselves in the present.