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Surprising Science

How Too Much Happiness Makes You Unhappy

Constantly making happiness your explicit goal is a recipe for unhappiness, say psychologists. Rather, enjoy the moment you are in without too much preparation or preoccupation. 

What’s the Latest Development?

The more happiness the better, right? Not exactly. Psychologists say that relentlessly seeking happiness is a recipe for loneliness and dissatisfaction. After studying diary entries of 206 Americans, psychologist Iris Mauss found that “those to whom being happy was extremely important felt lonelier after experiencing a stressful event than those who didn’t make such a big deal of wanting to be cheerful.” Her advice is to seek and accept a healthy balance between happy and unhappy feelings, perhaps experiencing three positive emotions for every one negative emotion. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Contrary to our modern drive for self-satisfaction, being too happy turns out to have a host of negative consequences. People flooded with positive emotion are less likely to be objective, succumbing to racial and sexual stereotypes more easily. They are more easily deceived, partially losing the ability to pick up on the biological cues of dishonesty. “High levels of positive feelings predict risk-taking behaviors, excess alcohol and drug consumption, binge eating, and may lead us to neglect threats,” said June Gruber, a professor of psychology at Yale University. 

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