Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When the Pursuit of Happiness Backfires

Maybe Will Smith isn't always for you. From Gregg Hawkins.
Today the Times of India reports that the pursuit of happiness actually makes some people depressed. This information comes from a study by June Gruber of Yale, Iris Mauss of the University of Denver, and Maya Tamir of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

These three say that problems arise when you set too many expectations for your own happiness. Gruber says, "But when you're doing it with the motivation or expectation that these things ought to make you happy, that can lead to disappointment and decreased happiness." The authors also outline some problems that happen when you really are too happy, like decreased creativity and unnecessary risk taking.

So if you read this blog or others like it and you feel disappointed when some of the suggestions don't work out for you, it may be a good idea to cut back for awhile! There's no shame in it, and you may be doing yourself a favor.

Read more about this study in Perspectives on Psychological Science.


  1. I can see how this can be true! A simple example comes to mind, like when we think buying something would make us happy, then when we buy it we realize it didn't change much and get even more unhappy... I remember when I first noticed that I stopped being thrilled with new purchases I thought it was a very very bad and a disturbing sign. Then I realized it meant I, firstly, got older, and secondly, I no longer tried to depend on material things and make a connection between stuff I own and me feeling satisfied. Ugh, not easy to explain but I believe you can see where I'm going with it!

  2. Yes, I understand. It's probably a good thing in the long run if you stop believing that products can make you happy, but when it happens the first time, you might think you're coming down with depression or something!

  3. being happy is about generating it from within, not locating the responsibility outside ourselves. being happy is a way of being, not dependent on circumstances or outside forces.

  4. That's very true, camille. Anyone can do it!