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If you were ever sceptical about happiness…well, there’s some new science out there for you. June Gruber of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good blog writes about the latest studies in the area of “the dark side of happiness.””Researchers are just starting to seriously explore these questions, with good reason: By recognising the potential pitfalls of happiness, we enable ourselves to understand it more deeply and we learn to better promote healthier and more balanced lives,” she writes.
Gruber and her colleagues Iris Mauss and Maya Tamir identify four such pitfalls. We summarize here.
- “Too much happiness can make you less creative—and less safe.”A 2008 study showed that when people experience intense amounts of happiness, they lose their creativity boost. Another study showed too much positivity makes people unable to face new challenges. Furthermore, happiness makes us less inhibited to take new risks, which often makes us ignore warning signs. Such risky behaviours include “excessive alcohol consumption, binge eating, sexual promiscuity, and drug use.”
- “Happiness is not suited to every situation.” Happiness make us feel like our goals are fulfilled, which makes us less competitive.
- “Not all types of happiness are good for you.” Happiness leads to feelings of pride, which can lead to “negative social outcomes, such as aggressiveness towards others, antisocial behaviour, and even an increased risk of mood disorders such as mania.” In other words, happiness can make it more difficult to connect with other people.
- “Pursuing happiness may actually make you unhappy.” A new study shows that the more you pursue happiness, the less likely you’re able to obtain it. Standards of happiness become higher, which makes disappointment more likely.
Gruber recommends four ways to find “healthy happiness“: 1) experience the right amount of happiness, 2) be mindful of when and where you experience happiness, 3) strike emotional balance, and 4) pursue happiness for the right reasons.
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