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How long does your happiness last? Not too long…

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…Unless you decide otherwise!

I was trying to find an answer as for how long does a human actually feel happy and what influences the length? Yes, I really just did that.

All I found, however, was certain exercises; do this for 2 min or do that for 7 min each day to trigger happiness. It seems that nobody talks about what happens once I get to happiness. I mean we all know it is not a destination where we can just arrive to and be done with it, don’t we? And triggering is one thing but staying happy is obviously a whole different question.

As science failed to give answers, I started to self-observe. A big chunk of chocolate gives me 5 minutes of happiness. A great yoga class gives me between 15-20 minutes. A compliment on my work can make me happy for a good few hours. But a compliment on my appearance lasts only for an hour. Buying my ticket to New York has quite a power on me – it outweighs all other factors and can make me feel pure happiness for days. I can go on and on with my list – believe me, I really went deep into this experiment –  but this list is mine.  It is unique to me – it follows me as my DNA.

Once I assessed what makes me happy and for how long, I couldn’t just stop there. I wanted to understand the why-s. And for that, I took the two end of my happy spectrum:

Lowest spectrum: I am avoiding sugar (because after 30, health do matter). So to eat a big chunk of chocolate occasionally is something that I do look forward to. But it is easily accessible; the when to eat is entirely up to me; and once the pieces melt in my mouth, the pleasure is gone. It was great, thank you, next one.

Highest spectrum: I was born in Hungary. I don’t have a US green card (though entering the lottery diligently). Going to New York takes time, money and chances. It is everything but easily accessible. Once I buy my ticket, I usually need to wait a few weeks before I can smell the air (I know it almost sticks) and take the A line to the Village (yes, I love my metro card). The pleasure is prolonged. Once I am there, I know it will end (unless someone marries me right on the spot), so I close out everything else and I am just happy. For days.  Or until I faint (yes, it did happen).

Do you see it yet? It is right there in front of us: the universal answer for the ‘how long your happiness lasts?’

It all depends on three things:
One, the projected importance of that anticipated something in your life. (chocolate vs. New York)
Two, the level of difficulty to acquire it. (2 EUR vs. US green card)
Three, your decision on how happy it will make you. (Not eating sugar is good for me vs. I want my gallery-hopping in Chelsea, and I want it badly)

Yet there is still something in common in the piece of Sugar Bomb and the Big Apple: I decide that having them will make me happy and with my feelings about them I determine their happiness-giving length as well.

But forget my examples and look around you: did you just say hated your job? Do you just feel nothing makes you happy? Do you feel that your happiness paces off as a roller coaster?

It’s all in your head, and you can always decide otherwise. Knowing that your job has a pretty great impact on your life, and it can be damn hard to land on one, you can already decide to be happy and start to feel awesome about it. It is all a choice…that you need to take every day. And as opposed to the suggested 2-min happiness generating exercises, just make a decision; not only to be happy but to stay happy.

Happiness is like your sexy jeans. It takes a little effort to put it on each day, but only you can choose to either zip it up or stay naked.


Virág Gulyás is the founder of MissCareer/Less, a startup dedicated to women who embrace change, and works as a freelance creative project manager. As a former ballet dancer, she faced the challenges of what it means to change a career and start a new life in a culture where success is defined in linear terms. She believes that raw, honest storytelling is the new generation of women empowerment. Virág is an author, speaker and develops workshops to empower women and young (un)employed people.

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