The Washington Post reports in its Science section that Americans on average need two happy events to make up for one negative event. On the other hand, after one negative event Japanese people need only one happy event to restore their emotional equilibrium. Why the disparity? According to the Post:
Americans report being generally happier than people from, say, Japan or Korea, but it turns out that, partly as a result, they are less likely to feel good when positive things happen and more likely to feel bad when negative things befall them.
Put another way, a hidden price of being happier on average is that you put your short-term contentment at risk, because being happy raises your expectations about being happy. When good things happen, they don't count for much because they are what you expect. When bad things happen, you temporarily feel terrible, because you've gotten used to being happy…
…according to the new study, led by University of Virginia psychologist Shigehiro Oishi, people who report a large ratio of positive to negative events also seem to derive diminishing returns from additional happy events—and ever larger adverse effects when they encounter negative events.
By contrast, Oishi found that even though Japanese people were less happy overall than Americans, they needed only one positive event to regain their equilibrium after experiencing a negative event. European Americans needed two positive events on average to regain their emotional footing.
Oishi's research also provides an intriguing window into why very few people are very happy most of the time. Getting to "very happy" is like climbing an ever steeper mountain. Additional effort—positive events—doesn't gain you much by way of altitude. Slipping backward, on the other hand, is very easy.
Whole Post article here.
By the way, I, like most Americans, am pretty happy with my life.