Primary happiness is our personal set point of happiness, our “background” level of contentment. Primary happiness is deeply related to how we see the world (glass half empty, glass half full, OR glass completely full of half water, half oxygen!).
Primary happiness also is profoundly impacted by our “attitude of gratitude”: How appreciative we are of the good things in our lives, how much we “count our blessings” vs. “anticipate our sorrows.” Some think our happiness set point is there at birth, while others think that it is learned from our early environment and home life, from the coping strategies and life outlook of our parents and first role models. It is possible to re-calibrate our happiness set point. People have done it with cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Like many things, “so easy when you want to, so hard when you don’t.”
Secondary happiness is much more in our control, generated by everyday activities, what we have learned to enjoy by investing our time, energies, and attention. You may enjoy an afternoon at the ball park because you have chosen to follow a certain team, learned the bios of the players and the history of their rivalries. Playing in a band may bring you secondary happiness, satisfaction generated by the intellectual, social, and physical pursuit of supplying yourself with primary happiness. Indeed, cultivating oodles of secondary happiness is a CBT technique used to reset higher your primary happiness set point.
“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” —— Abraham Lincoln
“I can think of nothing less pleasurable than a life devoted solely to pleasure.” —— John D. Rockefeller
“That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest.” —— Henry David Thoreau