Can Feeling Good Ever Be Bad?
In recent years, there has been an explosion of scientific studies proving how positive emotions like happiness are beneficial to our health. We know they inspire us to achieve important objectives and conquer challenges, protect us from the negative consequences of stress, bring us closer to others, and even help us avoid physical and mental illnesses. As a result, happiness has become very trendy. The science of happiness has been featured on the covers of publications such as Time, Oprah, and The Economist, and has generated an industry of motivational speakers, psychotherapists, and research firms. Happiness is clearly popular. However, is happiness always a good thing? Is it possible to be too happy? Researchers are only now beginning to look into these issues. By recognizing the potential hazards of happiness, we may gain a deeper understanding of it and learn how to live happier, more balanced lives.
Research has shown that people no longer feel the same creativity boost when experiencing intense and possibly overwhelming levels of enjoyment. People lose their ability to tap into and channel their inner creative energies in extreme circumstances like madness (Davis, M. A., 2009). Excessive happiness might not only counteract its own benefits, but it can also cause psychological injury. Why? The answer could be found in the definition and function of happiness. When we are happy, our focus shifts to exciting and positive aspects of our lives to keep the good vibes going. We are less constrained and more ready to explore new ideas and take chances when we are happy. Excessive alcohol use, binge eating, sexual promiscuity, and drug use are all risky behaviors that people in this heightened 'happy overdrive' might participate in. For instance, when school-aged children were regarded as "very cheerful" by their parents and instructors, they had a higher risk of mortality when followed into adulthood, possibly because they engaged in more risk-taking behavior. (Friedman, H. S., 1993).
Positive feelings like happiness also let us know that our objectives have been met, allowing us to take a breather, step back, and mentally relax. That is why, in a competitive environment, happiness can work against us. In one study, when playing a competitive computer game, people in a good mood performed worse than people in a bad mood. "Happiness" can encompass a wide range of emotional states: some make us feel more energized, while others make us feel more relaxed; some make us feel more connected to others, while others make us feel more charitable. When we feel too much pride or pride that isn't earned, it can lead to undesirable social consequences, including aggression, antisocial conduct, and even an increased risk of mood disorders like mania. During challenging emotional situations, self-focused positive feelings like pride may hamper our ability to empathize or take another person's perspective. Furthermore, people who experience happiness in inappropriate contexts are at a greater risk of developing emotional disorders such as mania (Tamir, M., 2017).
Most people, predictably, want to be happy. We appear to be hardwired to want happiness, but does this mean it’s a healthy pursuit? It's possible that pursuing happiness will do more harm than good. It seems that the more people seek happiness, the less likely they are to get it. They are more likely to set a high bar for happiness, only to be dissatisfied when it isn't met. This was especially true when respondents were in happy situations, such as listening to a happy song or seeing a happy movie clip. It's as if the harder one strives to be happy, the more difficult it is to be happy, even in otherwise pleasant circumstances (Mauss, I., 2011).
But how can we achieve a balanced level of happiness? This is the million-dollar question. First and foremost, it is critical that we find the appropriate level of happiness. It's just as bad to have too little happiness as it is to have too much. Second, happiness has a time and a place, and one must be aware of the context or setting in which happiness is an appropriate pursuit. Third, it's critical to maintain emotional equilibrium. It is impossible to be happy at the expense of negative feelings such as grief, rage, or guilt. These are all part of the complicated recipe for emotional well-being that assists us in gaining a more balanced viewpoint. Emotional equilibrium is essential. Finally, pursuing and experiencing happiness for valid reasons is critical. Too much emphasis on happiness as a goal in and of itself might be counterproductive. Instead of pursuing happiness with zeal, we might instead try to cultivate acceptance around our emotional states, whatever they may be. It appears that cultivating kindness toward others and yourself is the key to true happiness.
Davis, M. A. (2009). Understanding the relationship between mood and creativity: A meta-analysis. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 108(1), 25–38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.obhdp.2008.04.001
Friedman, H. S., Tucker, J. S., Tomlinson-Keasey, C., Schwartz, J. E., Wingard, D. L., & Criqui, M. H. (1993). Does childhood personality predict longevity? PsycEXTRA Dataset. https://doi.org/10.1037/e500372006-013
Mauss, I. B., Anderson, C. L., & Savino, N. S. (2011). Can wanting to be happy make people unhappy? paradoxical effects of valuing happiness. PsycEXTRA Dataset. https://doi.org/10.1037/e634112013-296
Secret to happiness may include more unpleasant emotions. (2017). PsycEXTRA Dataset. https://doi.org/10.1037/e500702018-001