Ne cherchez surtout pas à être heureux !

Différentes recherches ont montré que la poursuite du bonheur tend à déprimer[1] ! Mais plus vous parvenez à accomplir ce qui vous tient à cœur, plus les relations que vous avez avec les autres sont bienveillantes et coopératives, plus vous vous sentez compétent et utile, alors plus ce sentiment fleurit naturellement. La morale de l’histoire ? Que le bonheur soit un bénéfice secondaire (certes bon à prendre) mais surtout pas un objectif !

L’émotion humaine la plus fondamentale n’est ni la peur, ni la colère : c’est le désir, une impulsion instinctive qui nous pousse à chercher à acquérir ce que nous semble avoir de la valeur. Ce peut-être de l’argent ou de la connaissance, une relation ou du pouvoir, en fait toute chose différente ou nouvelle qui nous apparaît à tort ou à raison comme désirable[2] . Mettez une souris dans un cage remplie de bouchons de bouteilles et toutes sortes d’objets, elle se mettra à les rassembler au cas où il y aurait un usage hédonique possible à toute cette nouveauté!

Le désir d’acquérir est ce qui nous motive à agir, et produit une gratification automatique en libérant ce neurotransmetteur délectable qu’est la dopamine. Avec toutefois une surprise : cette recherche du plaisir stimule notre conscience en activant le lobe frontal[3]. Si un excès de dopamine est libéré, nous sommes à risque de devenir obsessionnels ou dépendants de nos objets de plaisir. Si nous sommes attirés par l’argent, nous pouvons devenir des joueurs compulsifs, au casino ou en bourse. Si c’est la nourriture, manger avec excès. Et si c’est l’amour, nous pouvons devenir des dépendants affectifs.

Le désir est notre premier affect de survie, mais dès que la peur ou l’inquiétude s’invitent, le circuit de dopamine s’éteint, et des neurotransmetteurs de stress sont libérés[4]. Nous perdons notre motivation et fuyons. Heureusement, il est aisé d’enjamber neurologiquement les peurs et les doutes qui nous empêchent d’avancer. A condition toutefois de savoir comment agir sur ce circuit.

Quelques recommandations pratiques

Tout d’abord, faites une liste de toutes les activités qui vous ont procuré un intense plaisir. Ensuite, faites une liste de toutes les qualités et valeurs que vous appréciez en vous, dans vos relations et dans votre travail. En contemplant ces valeurs, visualisez ce que vous désirez vivre à l’avenir en vous appuyant sur le sentiment de gratification que cela produit en vous.

Faites une liste de vos désirs et demandez à votre intuition de concevoir une stratégie pour vous approcher de votre but. La « gratification différée » garde le cerveau archaïque curieux et excité, pour autant que vous vous accordiez de petits plaisirs tout au long du chemin. Cela renforcera les circuits de motivation de votre cerveau, mais aussi les structures qui génèrent la conscience et l’attention, ce qui est le vrai secret pour atteindre un sentiment neurologique de bien-être et de satisfaction[5].

La positivité prédit l’aptitude à être heureux

Selon la faculté de médecine de l’Université de Californie à San Francisco, les gens heureux sont plus satisfaits dans la vie parce que leur état d’esprit positif les motive à cultiver et développer des ressources de bien-être. A l’Université de Rome, des chercheurs ont pu prédire le niveau de bien-être futur d’adolescents en mesurant leur degré de positivité[6]. Qu’en est-il du vôtre ? Le ratio minimal est de générer 3-5 pensées et sentiments positifs pour chaque expression intérieure ou extérieure de négativité[7].

Comptez vos actes de bienveillance

Une équipe universitaire japonaise a quant à elle découvert que des étudiants pouvaient améliorer leur sentiment de bonheur simplement “en comptant tous leurs actes de bienveillance au cours d’une semaine entière”. Même ceux d’entre eux qui se considéraient comme étant déjà heureux se sont sentis plus bienveillants et reconnaissants à la fin de cette période[8]. Pourquoi ne pas essayer ? Ecrivez tout au long de la semaine toutes les manifestations de bienveillance que vous adressez aux personnes autour de vous !

Verbalisez votre gratitude

Une enquête de l’Université de Floride a montré en 2010 que l’expression de reconnaissance et d’appréciation entre collègues renforçait la cohésion et la performance groupales[9]. Entretenir des simples pensées de gratitude n’a pas le même pouvoir. Des chercheurs de la Wharton School af Business de l’Université de Pennsylvanie ont montré que les personnes qui reçoivent des mots de gratitude sont plus susceptibles de prêter assistance aux autres. Des telles expressions provenant du management ont même augmenté significativement le nombre d’appels effectués par l’équipe bénévole en charge du fundraising de l’Université[10] !

Bonheur au travail ? Voire…

Le trend actuel de programmes visant à favoriser le « bonheur du travail » soulève bien des questionnements. A juste titre : la recherche montre que si les paramètres qui permettent in fine de se sentir heureux au travail (clarté, équilibre et cohérence des activités, reconnaissance, soutien émotionnel, qualité relationnelle, autonomie et coopération, participation, confiance dans le management, valeurs fondamentales[11]) sont négligées, l’adjonction de programmes de « bonheur » aura à coup sûr un effet inverse !

 

Jean-Dominique Michel & Mark Robert Waldman

 

[1] Can seeking happiness make people unhappy ? Paradoxical effects of valuing happiness. Mauss IB, Tamir M., Anderson CL, Savino, NS. Emotion. 2011 Aug;11(4)

[2] Circuits regulating pleasure and happiness : the evolution of reward-seeking and misery-fleeing behavioral mechanisms in vertebrates. Loonen AJ, Ivanova SA. Front. Neurosci. 2015 Oct 23;9

[3] The role of orbitofrontal cortex in the pursuit of happiness and more specific rewards. Burke KA, Franz TM, Miller DN, Schoenbaum G., Nature. 2008 Jul 17;454

[4] Dopamine and extinction : a convergence of theory with fear and reward circuitry. Abraham AD, Neve KA, Lattal KM. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2014 Feb;108

[5] Context, emotion, and the strategic pursuit of goals: interactions among multiple brain systems controlling motivated behaviors. Gruber AJ, McDonald RJ. Front Behav Neurosci. 2012 Aug10;221(2)

[6] Occupational dreams, choices and aspirations : adolescents’ entrepreneurial prospects and orientations. Schmitt-Rodermund E., Vondracek FW. J Adolesc. 2002 Feb;25(1)

[7] Updated thinking on positivity ratio. Fredrickson BL. Am Psychol. 2013 Dec;68(9)

[8] Happy people become happier through kindness: a counting kindnesses intervention. Otake K, Shimai S, Tanaka-Matsumi J, Otsui K, Fredrickson BL. J Happiness Stud. 2006 Sep;7(3):361-375.

[9] Gratitude and well-being: a review and theoretical integration. Wood AM, Froh JJ, Geraghty AW,. Clin Psycol. Rev. 2010 Nov;30(7)

[10] A little thanks goes a long way. Explaining why gratitude expressions motivate prosocial behavior. Grant AM, Gino F., J Pers Soc Psychol. 2010 Jun;98(6)

[11] Cf Michel J.-D., « Santé globale et performance en entreprise »


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