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The dangerous pursuit of happiness

December 3, 2012


Chin up, mate.

Cheer up, it may never happen.

You need to be more positive!

How many times have you heard phrases like the above?  While having a positive outlook on life can be a good thing, there’s a fine line between finding silver linings in clouds and falling prey to Pollyanna syndrome.

Actively pursuing happiness at any price is not always a good choice for your wellbeing, according to this report from Psychology Today:

A number of researchers have found that the pursuit of happiness might sometimes be a fool’s errand. Being happy can lead you to ignore potentially dangerous consequences of your choices, to be more gullible, and to think in more simplistic and stereotyped terms. And an active desire to make yourself happy can lead you to be disappointed with your real life. Iris Mauss is a social psychologist at U.C. Berkeley who studies the possible negative consequences of seeking happiness. In earlier research, she found that people who place a great value on being happy actually have more mental health problems, including, sadly enough, depression. In a follow-up experiment, she found that reading a newspaper article singing the praises of happiness led them to actually feel less happy, because thinking about that ideal state of bliss tends to make people feel disappointed.

The key, as ever, is balance.  Letting happiness find its way to you, rather than seeking out false hopes.

Searching for meaning and satisfaction in your everyday life leads to happiness, not the other way around.

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