There’s plenty wrong in the world. Acting gloomy won’t fix any of it.

There’s plenty wrong in the world. Acting gloomy won’t fix any of it.

via the Atlantic by Arthur C Brooks

Browse your social media, scroll through your Netflix documentary queue, or turn on cable television, and you will be flooded with reasons to be worried and angry about issues large and small. There is plenty wrong in the world, lots of injustice, and too much suffering. The pandemic made that clear to even the most oblivious among us.

That suffering is not uniform, though. And for those who are better off, that might just provoke a bit of guilt. They might conclude that to project cheerfulness and life satisfaction is to be irresponsible and insensitive to the world’s problems. Some might even find themselves acting sad or outraged in order to show they care.

I understand the impulse, but research shows that acting unhappy is a great way to actually become dissatisfied with life. By saying you’re unhappy, you can talk yourself out of joy and right into gloom, which won’t do anything to ease others’ suffering. What will help is striving to achieve and project happiness even while showing your concerns about wrongs to be righted in the world. In fact, your happiness will make you more effective in making the world a better place.

We are all familiar with what we might call the “laughing on the outside, crying on the inside” phenomenon. It has received some attention from researchers, who generally find that acting happier of one’s own accord leads to more well-being. In contrast, being forced to act happy can have deleterious consequences, from depression to cardiovascular ailments. The implications are fairly clear: Act the way you want to feel, but don’t demand that others act the way you want them to feel.

The opposite phenomenon, “crying on the outside, laughing on the inside,” might have a few limited benefits. There’s some evidence that displaying negative emotions like sadness, anger, and boredom can help us garner more sympathy from others and even make us more attractive. But it almost certainly won’t make us happier.

If you find yourself projecting more sadness than you actually feel, you might suffer from a fear of happiness, an identifiable condition known as cherophobia. According to the research, cherophobia might stem from a belief that being happy will bring misfortune; that expressing or pursuing happiness is bad for you; or that being happy makes you a bad person. There is evidence that cherophobia is often found in religious communities. (You can assess yourself on the Fear of Happiness Scale to see whether you suffer from this condition.)

A sense that happiness makes you a bad person (or at least a horribly un-empathetic one) might be especially relevant to contemporary political culture. While there have not yet been studies involving cherophobia and political activism, it is easy to imagine that in an environment of protest, you might fear opprobrium for not showing sufficient seriousness about something negative.

There are two big problems with this framing. First, acting unhappy leads to real unhappiness. Researchers have shown that labeling oneself as depressed can lead people—especially young people—to think negatively about themselves (what psychologists call “self-stigma”) and experience depression. Similarly, acting angry can make you angrier. Cherophobia is itself associated with lower scores on surveys of life satisfaction.

Second, your unhappiness, anger, or depression about the world’s ills won’t make the world better. On the contrary, research has long found that our facial expressions and emotions, including the negative ones, are highly contagious. Your cherophobia could be motivated by sympathy, but it might just compound the misery of those who are already suffering.

Being concerned with the world’s problems should not conflict with our desire to be happy or to radiate that happiness. Here are some tips to balance the two…

…. keep reading the full & original article HERE