While the pursuit of happiness may seem like a reasonable aim, new research shows that making happiness a personal goal will only stand in the way of your achieving it.
The researchers found that men and women who valued happiness more tended to report being less happy and more depressed than who didn't place such a high premium on a lasting smile. "Wanting to be happy can make you less happy,"If you explicitly and purposely focus on happiness, that appears to have a self-defeating quality."
Stress and happiness
In the first study, researchers surveyed 59 men and women who reported having a stressful life event in the past six months, such as a divorce, self-injury, injury or death of a close family member, sudden unemployment, or exposure to crime. They also indicated the value they placed on happiness and their stress levels.
Among who reported lower stress levels, those who valued happiness more reported being less happy and had an average of 17 symptoms of depression versus four for low-stress men and women who valued happiness less. Regardless of the value placed on happiness, the high-stress showed significant differences in their happiness levels.
This is important,, because people with higher levels of stress can blame their unhappiness on that stress. So, regardless of the value they place on happiness, the stress is unlikely to leave them the chance to worry about how happy they are. While this study showed a link between focus on happiness and actual happiness, it didn't show that one was causing the other.
"When people want to be happy, they set higher standards by which they're more likely to fall short," "This, in turn, may lead to greater discontent, in turn lowering levels of happiness and well-being."The second study, provided evidence for this, as the link was the experimental result of a sad, disappointing movie clip. Second, it might be that an emphasis on personal happiness leads someone to neglect relationships with friends and family. It might have negative social effects," If you want to be happy, you may be more likely to focus on yourself, and so that can have negative effects on your social networks and your social connections."
"One reason why people are vulnerable when they explicitly emphasize the pursuit of happiness that they set themselves up for disappointment," A better strategy, might be to set goals that have concrete ends to them - specific attainments, awards or achievements.
If you want to be happy, the happiness itself can be fleeting, "How certain are you that you are really as happy as you hoped you could be? [Happiness] doesn't have a straightforward marker to let you know you've accomplished it. Because of that, it could be more elusive."
At this point, some follow-up should focus on how to set goals that may result in happiness. "This is really a fledgling area of inquiry," .We really need more studies to nail down ... how can you achieve happiness without incurring these negative consequences?"
"Don't try to be happy," but rather that an exaggerated focus on happiness can have downsides. It's certainly not always the case that pursuing happiness is a bad thing. If you give people the right tools to pursue happiness, then they can increase their happiness and well-being."
There were some methods that may ultimately help people achieve happiness without the negative effects that accompany its pursuit.
One way, may be for people to learn to engage their emotions by doing activities they enjoy, while taking the focus off the goal of happiness itself.
"One of the most effective ways to actually increase happiness is to engage in activities, which basically entails pursuing happiness in an indirect and non-effortful manner," Another is to change the type of happiness one pursues.
"People appear to pursue happiness as a personal, hedonic outcome",.In fact, there are many different definitions of happiness, and some definitions of happiness may avoid the self-defeating effects we documented here."
"For instance, making other people happy might be a good definition of happiness,". "We hypothesize that if you don't have a person-based, hedonic version of happiness, but rather a definition of happiness that is based in altruism or social connections, pursuing that kind of happiness may not have negative, self-defeating effects.".
"Making ourselves happy is a very important issue," But we should be cautious in dramatically changing our goals and aspirations on the basis of it. This is the kind of work that needs to be carefully replicated and pursued in a variety of different ways before we rely too heavily on this and a few other studies to change our behaviors."