Who doesn’t want to be happy forever? In fact, at this moment, you are certainly reading this and wishing for the next happy moment in your life. No doubt, you want to be happy in life. You want to smile for eternity. You want to experience butterflies floating in your stomach. But do you think that too much happiness is good for you? The bad news is, no. This article is about the unexplored dark side of happiness that you knew nothing about.
Too much happiness can hamper your career growth
Edward Diener, a professor of psychology once conducted a study of 16000 professionals around the world. His findings suggested that people who are seldom sad or anxious are also seldom dissatisfied with their jobs or careers as a whole. This translates to less pressure or need to pursue higher education or career jump in their lives.
On the contrary, comparatively less happy people are more likely to detect dissatisfaction at the right time and the right place. This means that they are more likely to seek better education or career prospects sooner than those who are happier in life.
This study suggests that there are numerous disadvantages of happiness – one of them being stuck in the rut for a long, long time and probably never ever realizing it.
Happier people lack clear judgment or insight
According to Joe Forgas, a professor of psychology at University of New Wales in Australia, happier people are also easier to deceive. People who are more happy in life cannot also detect lies or liars at the same rate less happy people can. Moreover, happier people are also more susceptible to frauds, as they are less likely to be able to distinguish a prankster or a cheater from an honest individual.
Forgas’ study also sheds light on the dark side of happiness. The study shows that happier people are more selfish than those who are not as happy. Such people lack clear insight, and hence, they are mostly unable to defend their opinion or argument. Most importantly, happier people are also less creative than those who experience sadness on a regular basis. On a side note, it is now not surprising that the majority of epic or classic literature comes from individuals who have struggled quite a lot in life.
Too much happiness and depression tend to go hand-in-hand
In 2011, Iris Mauss, a psychologist at the University of Denver, published a study in a journal named ‘Emotion’. The study, which involved 43 female subjects, proved that being too happy might actually lead to sadness later on.
In the study, the female participants were divided into two groups – one who read positive or happiness inducing news stories, and the other, who read neutral emotion inducing news stories. Both the groups then watched a screening of the movie titled ‘The Bridges of Madison County’.
The study showed that the first group felt a lot more sad and lonely after watching the doomed love story in the movie compared to the second group. This happened because prior to watching an almost tragic love story, the participants in the first group induced happy and positive feelings within them. The second group of participants, on the other hand, continuously read neutral stories, which made them neither happy nor sad.
So, when both the groups watched the movie, the first group expected to once again receive positive emotions from their surroundings. However, after a continued exposure to feelings and emotions of happiness, a wave of sadness and loneliness washed over the subjects and they ended up disappointed with the experience.
The second group, on the contrary, were neither happy nor sad prior to the screening. As the result, the wave of sadness did not hit the subjects as hard. This clearly shows that the harder you try to be happy, the sadder you are going to turn out to be. Certainly, happiness and depression go hand in hand.
Not only that, studies have also shown that excessive happiness can lead people down terrible roads, such as excessive spending, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as sexually promiscuous behavior.
So, how much happiness can you handle?
Obviously, now you know that too much happiness is not plausible or good for you. So, does that mean that you should stop seeking happiness altogether? Of course, not. You cannot, and should not, let the dark side of happiness scare you from pursuing it. Here is what you can do to avoid the disadvantages of happiness.
Don’t make the pursuit of happiness your ultimate goal
In a capitalist and materialist world, we are nurtured with a belief that happiness is the ultimate goal of life. You are only fully successful if you are fully happy. While happiness is a good emotion and you must grab it by all means whenever you can, this emotion cannot become the end to your means. The basic idea is not make the pursuit of happiness your ultimate goal.
Rather, take happiness as a part and parcel of life – a life which consists of a spectrum of emotions. Once you realize that happiness is just a phase of life, and once you learn to embrace all the other emotions as well, the chase for too much happiness will conclude. And then, your pursuit of happiness will not lead to sadness and depression knocking on your doors.
Embrace the right amount of happiness
June Gruber, a clinical psychologists, suggests that happiness, experienced in the right amounts, will never harm you. So, how do you measure the right amount of happiness? Gruber has a solution – experience three positive emotions to replace one negative emotion.
For instance, if you experience regret, guilt, fear, or sadness – replace one of these emotions with three positive ones –joy, hope, and gratitude/ compassion, kindness, and love. The order doesn’t matter. What matters is that you replace the negative thoughts with positive ones, and you do it in the right measure. Or else, you might go awry with too much happiness.
Live a life filled with purpose
Too much happiness achieved by selfish or harmful acts won’t last in the long run. The trick is to seek satisfaction rather than happiness. Perform activities that bind you with strangers and help you build deeper, stronger connections with them.