The Unfitting Piece of Happiness
Even though it has been proven through research that the pursuit of happiness leaves negative side effects, people are still resistant to it. It is understandable that many people have been conditioned to believe they should strive and search for happiness in their life, so that they may be successful. People believe that whether you find happiness or not will determine the value or measure of success of their life. People are immersed in how the value of happiness is deemed very high in today’s society and are surrounded by the increasing demand for guidance through motivational speakers, life coaches, and self-help books all 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 the Review of General Psychology, an article, “Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change,” states that enhancing peoples’ happiness levels may be a worthy scientific goal. This would indicate that increasing the happiness levels of people would be of value to science. In order to increase happiness, you would have to go in search of what causes happiness. There is too much value being placed in increasing 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. The 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.
The article in the journal of the Review of General Psychology also states that subjective happiness may be integral to mental and physical health. In reality, 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 article in the journal of the Review of General Psychology also states that happy people are more likely to evidence greater self-control and seld regulatory and coping abilities. As people search for happiness, people become greedy and more likely to exhibit less self-control. This will negatively affect their self-regulatory and coping abilities. As previously stated, people have a tendency to chase or long for a false sense of happiness, that is influenced by what others deem as proper success. 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 to the common desire for wealth as anything that has a monetary value is valued most by people. The author of Consumerism and its discontents, Tori DeAngelis, explains that in today’s world we own so many materialistic items and endless other commodities that weren’t around in the past, but are we any happier? 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. He differentiates extrinsic goals, which focus on possessions, image, and status, from intrinsic ones, which aim at outcomes like personal growth and community connection. 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. This practice shows no signs of self-control. 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. These behaviors are not examples of positive self-regulatory and coping abilities. Although they feel powerful and that nothing matters anymore, their life has little to no meaning as a superficial life of selfish dedication to instant gratification is unfulfilling in the bigger picture.
Gruber, J. J. (n.d.). Four ways happiness can hurt you. Greater Good. Retrieved November 4, 2021, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_ways_happiness_can_hurt_you.
Gruber, J., Mauss, I. B., & Tamir, M. (2011). A Dark Side of Happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness Is Not Always Good. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(3), 222–233. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691611406927
Kashdan, T.B. & McKnight, P.E. (2009). Origins of Purpose in Life: Refining our Understanding of a Life Well Lived. Psihologijske teme, 18 (2), 303-313. Retrieved from https://hrcak.srce.hr/48215
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change. Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 111–131. https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-26126.96.36.199
Mauss, I. B., Savino, N. S., Anderson, C. L., Weisbuch, M., Tamir, M., & Laudenslager, M. L. (2011, September 12). The Pursuit of Happiness Can Be Lonely. Emotion. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025299
Zerwas FK, Ford BQ. The paradox of pursuing happiness. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. 2021;39:106-112. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352154621000541. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2021.03.006.