There is Such a Thing as Too Much Happiness

By Sharon Moore on April 13, 2012

Many people spend the rest of their years searching for things that will make them happy. Happiness is something that we all look forward to. But according to experts, too much of it may not be good for you.

The Consequences of Being Too Happy

At first glance, it seems ironic to know that we can be less happy when we’re too much happy. But scientists have an explanation for this. Joe Forgas, a psychology professor at the University of South Wales in Australia, conducted a study that showed how happy people can be more prone to stereotype thinking. During his experiment, he asked two groups of students to read two identical philosophical essays written by an author named Robin Taylor. He showed the first group of students a photo of a middle-aged, bearded man who was presumably the author. On another group, he showed an image of a young woman wearing a t-shirt. After reading the essay and seeing the pictures, ‘happy’ participants considered the man’s work to be more competent that that of the young woman’s. On the other hand, students under the ‘less happy’ group judged both writers to be equally competitive.

After analysing the results, Forgas concluded that happy people are easier to deceive and find it hard to detect lies. His study was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

On another study which involved more than 16,000 people worldwide, psychologist Edward Diener and his team of researchers found out that people who reported the highest life satisfaction early in life were more likely to drop out of college as compared to those who were less cheerful. Furthermore, they are more likely to make less when they grow older. Researchers found that ‘excessively’ cheerful individuals roughly make £2,000 and even less, when they were examined 10 years later.

While happiness is a crucial factor necessary to live a healthy and more meaningful life, being too cheerful all the time does have negative consequences too. Many people used to fear anxiety. But sometimes, we have to experience it to become more focused and goal-oriented. June Gruber, a psychology professor at the Yale University also studied happiness and according to her, it’s important that we take positive feelings in moderation. Gruber compared happiness with food. Basically, our body needs food to sustain energy and remain functional. But too much of it can lead to health problems. The same thing is true with happiness. Excessive positive feelings, according to Gruber, increase the risk of risk-taking behaviours, binge eating, and alcohol and drug abuse. It may also trigger us to ignore threats.

How Happy Should We Be?

Experts suggest that emotions are adaptive and they make us change our behaviour so we can cope with different situations. For instance, anger gives us the courage to fight while fear takes us away from danger. Sadness has benefits too. Studies show that when we are sad, we think more systematically, making us more attentive to details, and externally oriented. But when we’re too happy, we tend to make false judgements because of stereotype thinking. It is therefore important to accept your level of happiness as long as you’re not clinically depressed, Gruber pointed out. As a follow-up to their study, she and her team of researchers are currently studying whether it would be beneficial to experience three positive emotions for every negative. So if there’s joy, compassion, and gratitude, there should be one negative feeling such as disgust, fear, guilt, or embarrassment to keep the balance.

Sources for this article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/too-much-happiness-can-make-you-unhappy-studies-show/2012/04/02/gIQACELLrS_story.html?tid=pm_national_pop&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews

http://uk.askmen.com/sports/news_100/127_too-much-happiness.html#ixzz1rs2UMLH4

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