The Unfitting Piece of Happiness
Even though it has been proven through research that the pursuit of happiness is at best unrewarding and at worst disastrous, it remains for most of us a core value. We’ve been conditioned to believe that we should strive for happiness and that it’s worth fighting a war to defend our right to do so by documents as fundamental as the Declaration of Independence. It is understandable that there is a widespread belief that whether you find happiness or not will determine the value or measure of success of their life. It is easy to be immersed in how the value of happiness is deemed very high in today’s society and are surrounded by the increasing demand for guidance with the main focus of increasing happiness. Studies have shown that people who extremely value happiness are less likely to attain long-term happiness, which is explained by lower levels of psychological well-being and life satisfaction. However, identifying the purpose of life will result in more life fulfillment and satisfaction.
In an article, “Why You Need to Pursue Happiness,” the author, Ronald Siegel, Psy.D, claims that happiness positively impacts your health. He explains that besides the impact on longevity, there is evidence linking positive emotions to a lower risk of certain diseases and states that studies have found that people who are generally hopeful or curious appear to have a lower risk of developing hypertension and diabetes. However, this study does not address the claim at hand. Siegel uses “hopeful” and “curious” as indicators of positive emotions resulting from happiness, when in fact they are not. These terms reference temporary emotions that can appear and disappear in a moment. They are not necessarily related to happiness as someone can be hopeful in dark or challenging times or become curious as new information is presented. These in no way have a clear indication of happiness or positive emotions. These emotions can also be considered as part of someone’s personality, or traits that are commonly expressed by certain individuals. This would also not have any clear indication of happiness, as personality traits are developed as people grow and are not as easily changed.
Although Siegal claims that happiness has positive impacts on your health, it actually results in negative side effects. If people experience a high intensity of happiness, there are no psychological or health gains and people may experience costs. When feeling overly happy, we tend to feel less inhibited and more likely to explore new possibilities and take risks. People in this heightened ‘happiness overdrive’ mode engage in riskier behaviors and tend to disregard threats. For example, when experiencing high degrees of positive emotions, some individuals are more inclined to engage in riskier behaviors, such as alcohol consumption, binge eating, and drug use. This would lead to more health problems, such as increasing the risk of hypertension and diabetes.
Searching for happiness not only results in negative impacts on physical health, but also on mental health. Individual happiness creates a selfish drive that shows how people are not satisfied and will continue searching for happiness. This entails negatively affecting your mental and physical health. It has been shown that striving for personal gains can damage connections with others. For example, people who have high self-esteem often fail to attend to others’ needs and are unaware of how their actions can affect others. In addition, a narrow determination of achieving goals can cause people to disregard others’ feelings. Setting a small focus for achieving your happiness goal can be regarded as a selfish drive that neglects the emotions of those who surround you. This causes the pursuit of happiness to damage people’s relationships with others, resulting in loneliness. By ruining your relationships and connections with the people surrounding you, your search for happiness has left you with no one you can emotionally or physically connect to. This negatively affects your mental and physical health, as you are likely to turn to unhealthy behaviors. Studies were conducted and they examined correlations between valuing happiness and reports of loneliness in a large community sample. Another study was conducted as well to test the effects of experimental manipulation of valuing happiness on loneliness, through self-reports and a hormonal indicator, progesterone, of social connection. These results showed that valuing happiness is linked to greater indications of loneliness. This can lead to those pursuing happiness being at risk for poor mental health associated with more depressive symptoms.
The author also claims that happiness fades, so you should continue to seek it out. He states, “The last, crucial 40 percent of our potential happiness is under our control. We have to work to maintain it — and the research says it’s worth the effort,” In this statement, Siegal claims that the happiness is potential, which indicates that it is not guaranteed. There is no assurance that seeking out that happiness will yield successful results. This would undermine the statement that it would be worth the effort. He also states that you must work to maintain happiness, which indicates you would have to have it, to begin with. There is too much value being placed in increasing or maintaining happiness levels, that the value of happiness itself is being faded. It is common for people to value wanting to be happy above many other goals with the expectation that happiness not only feels good but is beneficial for you. However, the more value that people invest in finding happiness, the less happy they are in actuality. People have a tendency to chase or long for a false sense of happiness, that is influenced by what others deem as proper success. They themselves are not searching for their own happiness. On the other hand, the search for the purpose of one’s life is a true reflection of the person. The purpose of life is important for psychological and physical well-being as it is both a goal for and a means to a fulfilling life. Purpose is important in that when present, it is a prevailing theme of a person’s identity, and it provides a basis for behavior patterns in everyday life.
As people search for happiness, people become greedy and more likely to exhibit less self-control. This phenomenon is seen in the common desires for wealth, power, influence, or love. Materialistic values play a huge role in our society’s definition of happiness and success. The need for materialistic items is linked under the common desire for wealth as anything that has a monetary value is valued most by people. Consumer culture is super prevalent in today’s time and there has been a decrease in life satisfaction. In psychologist Tim Kasser’s book, “The High Price of Materialism”, Kasser describes how people who organize their lives around extrinsic goals such as acquiring materialistic items, report greater unhappiness in relationships, poorer moods, and more psychological problems. Those who obtain so many materialistic items feel a superficial high where they feel they have added so much value to their life. This unforgiving cycle of greed relating to materialistic items is an effect of the unrelenting search for happiness.
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