Want to Be Happier? Science Says 2 Overlooked Variables Can Be the Keys to Happiness

Want to Be Happier? Science Says 2 Overlooked Variables Can Be the Keys to Happiness

One of the more interesting books I remember reading in the early days of Positive Psychology was Dan Gilbert’s “Stumbling on Happiness”.

I won’t even try to summarise it in it’s entirety here but one of the fascinating findings within this summary of his research was, in short, that we’re actually not very good at predicting what makes us happy!

Too often too many of us underestimate the real contributors to happiness and we overestimate some factors that don’t really give us much joy at all.

Which is why I think this article by Jeff Haden from INC is cool because he reminds us of a few cool things many of us overlook …

A friend–we’ll call her Polly, short for Pollyanna, for reasons that will become obvious–is unrelentingly positive. Always cheerful. Always enthusiastic. She’s the happiest person I know.

Except, according to her, she’s not. She says she is often unhappy, especially when she actually does feel happy. Then she thinks she should be really, really happy.

Like when she’s out with friends. She’s having fun, but shouldn’t she be having more fun? Or when her company lands a new customer; success is gratifying, but shouldn’t success be more gratifying? 

Since she knows happiness is not just a good thing but is also good for her, she wants to be happier. So she works hard to be happier. In her own words, she’s focused and driven and almost consumed with being happier.

Which makes her less happy.

She’s not alone. Research published in Emotion found that over-emphasizing the pursuit of happiness–in short, trying too hard to be happier when you’re already happy–can work against you and cause greater levels of unhappiness.

As the researchers write:

Valuing happiness could be self-defeating, because the more people value happiness, the more likely they will feel disappointed.

Paradoxically, therefore, valuing happiness may lead people to be less happy just when happiness is within reach.

The result is a form of what’s commonly known as “toxic positivity.” In some cases, toxic positivity involves trying to convince someone that everything is fine–instead of listening and empathizing, and allowing them to work through a serious issue in a more natural and healthy way.

In my friend’s case, her constant quest to find an even brighter side of every positive situation–an inward-facing form of toxic positivity–causes her to undervalue what she’s actually feeling and process it in an unhealthy way.

To sum it all up: Trying to be happier makes her less happy.

What can you do if that sounds like you? (What can I do, because it sometimes sounds like me?)

… keep reading the full & original article HERE