Small Pleasures Are Just As Important For Our Wellbeing As Long-Term Goals

Posted on August 19, 2020

When it comes to leading a happy and fulfilled life, many of us focus on long-term goals: what job we want, whether or not we want children, or how to reach a certain level of skill at a particular hobby or interest. There’s a reason so much research looks at how to achieve the things you value in life.

As such, we often (try to) eschew short-term pleasures, deeming them a distraction from loftier goals. But according to a study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, the pursuit of those more immediate pleasures could be just as important for our wellbeing.

The ability to engage in short term pleasures might not be the same for everybody, reasoned the researchers, Katharina Bernecker from the University of Zurich and Daniela Becker from Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien. In other words, some people may be more liable to fail at achieving short-term pleasurable goals because they’re too focused on long-term ones. So in the first study, the team developed a self-report scale to assess individual differences in this ability to pursue “hedonic” goals. Questions measured hedonic success, or how well people manage to pursue short term pleasures (e.g. “in my spare time, I can relax well”), and intrusive thoughts about long term goals whilst engaging in short term pleasures (e.g. “I cannot stop myself from thinking about things I still need to do”).

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Source material from British Psychological Society

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