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According to The Los Angeles Times experts in the field of positive psychology still believe it’s possible for people to push their happiness baseline upward — not just temporarily but over the long haul. In his 2002 book, “Authentic Happiness,” psychologist Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that day-to-day happiness is derived from two main sources: pleasures and gratifications.

Pleasures are rich sensory experiences that simply make us feel good — things like eating cake, sipping wine and having sex. While pleasures can be immensely satisfying, the enjoyment we derive from them tends to be fleeting.

Gratifications, on the other hand, are activities that we like to do and that also fully engage us. They’re often challenging, requiring that we draw on personal skills and strengths to perform them. For some people, work is a source of gratification. For others, it may be hobbies like gardening, sewing, tennis and stamp collecting. Engaging in gratifying activities affects the mood in a way that appears to be lasting.

Too often, people opt for pleasure over gratification because it’s easier and the effects more immediate. Though these shortcuts may work for a while, there are ultimately consequences.

Pleasurable activities become less enjoyable if overused. Constantly choosing pleasures over gratifications also prevents people from developing their personal strengths, which, if they’re not put to work, eventually wither away.

Pleasures shouldn’t be abandoned completely, but they should be chosen carefully and, Seligman suggests, more sparingly. Spacing pleasures out allows them to remain novel and enjoyable.

While for many plastic surgery fuels their pleasure, it is  an overwhelmingly positive experience for most patients. Dr. O’Toole is careful to explain the benefits and risk of procedures in which patients have an interest. Seeking a larger bust line through breast augmentation or a smoother face from a facelift should not be with the goal to provide immediate pleasure. The truth is; like most good things plastic surgery looks better on most patients, over time.

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