If you’re like me, you’ll sometimes Google random things, just to see what comes up!
Well, this week, I Googled ‘can too much happiness be a bad thing?’. And, guess what? The consensus is that it can!
Largely, most people would agree that being happy is our reason for being here, along with making the world a better place for everyone. And, certainly, being happy sure feels like it outweighs being unhappy. The happiness ‘industry’ has been written about many times over the last decade. Varying figures have been placed on how much individuals and governments spend on well-being. There is an argument that we’ve all been sold this concept simply to make us spend our hard earned cash in its pursuit and that, until you can say you’re happy all of the time, you’ve not quite ‘made it’.
As human beings, we’re designed to feel a whole range of emotions. However, how many times have you heard parents say ‘dry your eyes’, ‘don’t cry’, ‘cheer up’, ‘just don’t think about it’, in an attempt to avert any discomfort from ‘bad’ feelings. Unfortunately, most of us have found that the avoidance of painful or uncomfortable feelings is that they’ll either surface again and again. Sometimes this in the wrong place at the wrong time! Until we’ve processed them, or we bury them so deep that they have an impact on our physiology in the form of heart problems or depression.
Don’t dwell on unhappiness
I’m not suggesting that we should dwell on unhappiness, but let’s look at some of the downsides of trying to be happy all of the time;
- moderate levels of discomfort and ‘unhappiness’ can help to spur us onto better things. Are you sad because you don’t enjoy your job? This is great motivation to either change your job or look for the things that you do enjoy instead. Much research has found that too much happiness can lead to less creativity. If we don’t experience any discomfort, you never have to be creative to find a solution.
- people who are happy all of the time experience a certain disengagement from reality which can lead to some risky or inappropriate behaviours. For example, if you never feel fear, you won’t know to move away from a dangerous situation.
- without a range of emotions, we may respond inappropriately to other people. Being part of a successful society relies on us being able to ‘read’ how others are and standing alongside them in their feelings.
Constantly pursuing happiness…
- if we’re constantly pursuing happiness, we miss the opportunity to enjoy today and what we have in our lives now. How many times have you heard people say ‘I’ll be happy when…..’? It might be when that new car arrives, you’ve passed the exams, lost weight, earned more money etc etc. And, there is no doubt that these things might well trigger happier emotions. However, the acquisition of outside things has been shown to being happiness that isn’t lasting. In addition, there is finite happiness that is brought with more money – many studies have shown that after a certain amount, the level of happiness doesn’t in fact increase! Many people will agree that happiness created from outside things is less stable, and not in our control.
- sometimes, the pursuit of happiness comes at a price when things don’t quite turn out as planned. If we have very specific standards of what this happiness might look like and when we get there, it doesn’t quite fit the image, then this can lead to disappointment. This is different to having goals as these can give us a clarity of direction if set effectively.
Experience too much happiness ?
That’s quite a list!! Please don’t think that I’m not recommending happiness. It’s more about experiencing it as part of the human condition and understanding that it’ll probably come and go. There’ll never be a day when we think ‘that’s it!’. I’ve done it! I’ll never be unhappy again. And, that’s quite normal. It’s simply not true that all those happy times that you see on instagram and FB represent the whole of that person’s life – trust me, they’re experience some non happy times too; they’re just not telling the world about it!