The Dark Side of Happiness

It just happens that the pursuit of happiness can sometimes backfire, according to June Gruber, professor of Yale University and co-author of the study.

In fact, people who look for happiness may end up unhappier in the long run.

The techniques suggested in most self-help books aren’t bad. In fact, most provide useful tips — such as taking time to think about things that make you happy, and remembering not to take things for granted. Gruber stated that when people follow these tips with the expectation that they should achieve happiness, they become quickly disappointed.

A study that followed people since childhood to old age found that those who were rated happier by their teachers died younger. Previous studies have found that people who are extremely happy, such as people with mania, were likely to take dangerous risks like substance abuse or fast driving. And even for individuals without psychiatric conditions, happiness can have negative consequences too.

Another issue is inappropriate happiness; for instance, it is not good to be happy when someone else was injured in an accident or is grieving the loss of a loved member. Gruber stated that research has shown that this type of happiness can be common in individuals with mania.

Happiness can also cut short negative emotions that are indispensable for a person’s wellbeing. For example, guilt can remind you to treat others better; fear can protect you from dangerous risks.

Yet researchers think they have found the key to healthy happiness. Gruber concluded that the best way to achieve happiness is not fame or money, but having meaningful relationships. This finding suggests it is wiser to stop worrying about happiness, and instead focus on building stronger social bonds with other people.

Source – Association for Psychological Science

Author: Alejandro Adrian LeMon, Ph.D., LMHC

A little about me... I'm a licensed mental health counselor in the state of Florida and the founder of Psychology One. I am also a former college instructor of sociology and I have worked at several not-for-profit agencies & EAP organizations. I currently live with my fiancee and our three cats.

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