Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Happiness has a dark side

17.05.2011
It seems like everyone wants to be happier and the pursuit of happiness is one of the foundations of American life.

But even happiness can have a dark side, according to the authors of a new review article published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. They say that happiness shouldn't be thought of as a universally good thing, and outline four ways in which this is the case. Indeed, not all types and degrees of happiness are equally good, and even pursuing happiness can make people feel worse.

People who want to feel happier can choose from a multitude of books that tell them how to do it. But setting a goal of happiness can backfire, says June Gruber of Yale University, who co- wrote the article with Iris Mauss of the University of Denver and Maya Tamir of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It's one of the many downsides of happiness – people who strive for happiness may end up worse off than when they started.

The tools often suggested for making yourself happy aren't necessarily bad—like taking time every day to think about things you're happy about or grateful for, or setting up situations that are likely to make you happy. "But when you're doing it with the motivation or expectation that these things ought to make you happy, that can lead to disappointment and decreased happiness," Gruber says. For example, one study by Mauss and colleagues found that people who read a newspaper article extolling the value of happiness felt worse after watching a happy film than people who read a newspaper article that didn't mention happiness—presumably because they were disappointed they didn't feel happier. When people don't end up as happy as they'd expected, their feeling of failure can make them feel even worse.

Too much happiness can also be a problem. One study followed children from the 1920s to old age and found that those who died younger were rated as highly cheerful by their teachers. Researchers have found that people who are feeling extreme amounts of happiness may not think as creatively and also tend to take more risks. For example, people who have mania, such as in bipolar disorder, have an excess degree of positive emotions that can lead them to take risks, like substance abuse, driving too fast, or spending their life savings. But even for people who don't have a psychiatric disorder, "too high of a degree of happiness can be bad," Gruber says.

Another problem is feeling happiness inappropriately; obviously, it's not healthy to feel happy when you see someone crying over the loss of a loved one or when you hear a friend was injured in a car crash. Yet research by Gruber and her colleagues has found this inappropriate happiness also occurs in people with mania. Happiness also can mean being short on negative emotions—which have their place in life as well. Fear can keep you from taking unnecessary risks; guilt can help remind you to behave well toward others.

Indeed, psychological scientists have discovered what appears to really increase happiness. "The strongest predictor of happiness is not money, or external recognition through success or fame," Gruber says. "It's having meaningful social relationships." That means the best way to increase your happiness is to stop worrying about being happy and instead divert your energy to nurturing the social bonds you have with other people. "If there's one thing you're going to focus on, focus on that. Let all the rest come as it will."

For more information about this study, please contact: June Gruber at june.gruber@yale.edu.

Perspectives on Psychological Science is ranked among the top 10 general psychology journals for impact by the Institute for Scientific Information. It publishes an eclectic mix of thought-provoking articles on the latest important advances in psychology. For a copy of the article "A Dark Side of Happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness Is Not Always Good" and access to other Perspectives on Psychological Science research findings, please contact Divya Menon at 202-293-9300 or dmenon@psychologicalscience.org.

Divya Menon | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psychologicalscience.org
http://www.yale.edu

Further reports about: Perspectives Psychological Science Science TV happiness psychological

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders

28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

New photoacoustic technique detects gases at parts-per-quadrillion level

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Funding of Collaborative Research Center developing nanomaterials for cancer immunotherapy extended

28.06.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>