178 Dark Side of Happiness

Based on research by J. Gruber, I. B. Mauss, & M. Tamir by Mara Rowcliffe, BS

Can happiness ever be a bad thing?

According to Psychologist June Gruber and her colleagues in a review of the research, happiness does have a dark side. While it’s generally considered a positive experience, happiness might sometimes lead to negative outcomes.

They determined that excessive levels of any emotional experience, including happiness could lead to problems. The research indicated that extreme positive emotion might result in risk taking behaviors and ignoring threats, thereby affecting physical safety. Additionally, They noted that happiness is not always beneficial in every situation, as there are wrong times to feel positive emotions and appropriate times to feel negative emotions. For example, most people are not likely to feel happy during a distressing or negative event. Many people also report wanting to be happier than they already are. However, the research illustrates that when they pursue happiness directly and don’t end up as happy as they would expect, their feeling of failure may make them feel even worse.

It’s OK not to be happy. Accept where you are, find happiness not just in pleasures but love and help others, strive to do meaningful work, and appreciate all aspects of life…not just the happy moments.

Gruber, J., Mauss, I. B., & Tamir, M. (2011). A dark side of happiness? How, when, and why happiness is not always good. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(3), 222-233.

Gruber, J., Johnson, S.L., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (2008). Risk for mania and positive emotional responding: Too much of a good thing? Emotion, 8, 23–33.

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