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The downsides of happiness

Updated on September 1, 2016

Too Much Happiness Can Actually Harm Us

Happiness is often seen as a positive emotion. Even large corporations are implementing policies to ensure that their employees are happy. But the reality is that like other emotions happiness must be done in moderation. For example studies have shown that being too happy can actually make people less focused and unsuccessful. The reason for this is that when people are consistently happy, irrespective of their failures, they become complacent. This is in stark contrast to the the more frustrating periods of life. It is when we are experiencing angst that we tamper with new ideas and attempt to improve ourselves. According to psychologist Edward Diener, people who rarely feel anxiety and sadness are less likely to feel dissatisfied with their jobs. Therefore these persons rarely improve themselves professionally or enter more rewarding fields. Additionally research also shows that being excessively happy can induce risky behavior. Such a finding is not hard to believe, because if we are too happy we may not weigh the negative implications of some actions. Also happiness is simply not appropriate for every situation. For example when engaging in a negotiation, a level of seriousness is required. In this context happiness can be a distraction and may seem unprofessional.

Striving For Happiness Will Make Us Sad

Although many people acknowledge the importance of being happy, a large number of people are still unhappy. One of the reasons for this is that too many of us believe, that there is one clear route to happiness. However happiness is quite personal and what makes Person A happy, may make Person B unhappy. But unfortunately we are taught that we all need the same things to become happy. Therefore if we all believe that fame and fortune make us happy, we strive for it. Unfortunately it is a real tragedy to strive for riches, only to find out that money doesn't make you happy. According to Iris Mauss this is the main problem with striving for happiness. Whenever we achieve one goal, we set the standard higher and as a result, we end up unhappy. Presently, the happiness industry is evolving. As a result of this new targets are always being set. One minute we are told that being successful makes us happy, and at another time it is the quality of our relationships. Hence people are so busy consuming the product of happiness, that they do not get the time to find out what makes them happy. The commercialization of happiness forces us to want to be happy. However the downside is that it allows us to treat happiness as a luxury product. For example it is often repeated that mindfulness makes us happy and there is an app for that. But like other emotions happiness is fluid, we can feel happy at any time. It is not something we can just get up and create. No one ever said that there is something wrong with being happy. Yet our present culture treats happiness like a luxury good and this will definitely not make us happy.

The Upside Of Negative Emotions

In addition the emphasis placed on happiness can cause us to forget that emotion are adaptive. Happiness may be a positive emotion, but negative emotions also serve a purpose. Research has shown that people are more likely to make bad judgments, due to biases when they are happy. However being in a sad mood can reduce common errors. When we are in a negative mood we make better decisions, by promoting a more analytical thinking style. In contrast being in a happy mood can result in superficial thinking. It must also be noted that being in a negative mood makes us more skeptical of others. Hence we are less likely to be deceived. Furthermore happiness brings contentment. Sadness on the other hand motivates us to solve challenges in our environment. According to groundbreaking research led by Dr.Brock Bastian at the University of Queensland in Australia, avoiding sadness has several disadvantages. According to the findings, when people are expected to not show sadness, they experience depression and have more negative emotions. They are also more likely to report lower levels of satisfaction with their lives. Likewise fear is also seen as a negative emotion. But had it not been for fear we would not know how to react to danger. It is a known fact that excessive happiness can make one susceptible to engaging in risky activities like unsafe sex and binge drinking. While anger often regarded as destructive can be used to indicate that we deserve better treatment, according to psychologists. Without anger social change would be impossible. No one would be irritated enough to demand better. Also not all types of happiness are beneficial. For example pride, a feeling correlated with achievement, may make us aggressive and arrogant. While being overly optimistic may make us disappointed. Nothing is wrong with wanting to be happy, but it is not a luxury product to be bought. Further by focusing so much on happiness, we can forget that all emotions serve a purpose. This will only make us unhappy and unable to deal with the challenges of our lives.


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