What the Second-Happiest People Get Right

What the Second-Happiest People Get Right

Arthur C Brooks is one of my favourite writers. He has a regular column in the Atlantic and the focus is mostly on happiness and living a good life.

I almost always love and agree with this works! Which is rare but great.

His takes on happiness and positive psychology are always interesting and thought provoking and … usually just a little bit different.

All of which is the case with this article I’m happy to share with you today …

In 2007, a group of researchers began testing a concept that seems, at first blush, as if it would never need testing: whether more happiness is always better than less. The researchers asked college students to rate their feelings on a scale from “unhappy” to “very happy” and compared the results with academic (GPA, missed classes) and social (number of close friends, time spent dating) outcomes. Though the “very happy” participants had the best social lives, they performed worse in school than those who were merely “happy.”

The researchers then examined a data set from another study that rated incoming college freshmen’s “cheerfulness” and tracked their income nearly two decades later. They found that the most cheerful in 1976 were not the highest earners in 1995; that distinction once again went to the second-highest group, which rated their cheerfulness as “above average” but not in the highest 10 percent.

As with everything in life, happiness has its trade-offs. Pursuing happiness to the exclusion of other goals–known as psychological hedonism–is not only an exercise in futility. It may also give you a life that you find you don’t want, one in which you don’t reach your full potential, you’re reluctant to take risks, and you choose fleeting pleasures over challenging experiences that give life meaning.

The way to understand the study above is not to deny that happiness is good; rather, it is to remember that a little bit of unhappiness has benefits. For instance, gloom has been found to aid in problem-solving. The author Emmy Gut argued in 1989 that some depressive symptoms can be a functional response to problems in the environment, leading us to pay appropriate attention and come up with solutions. In other words, when we are sad about something, we may be more likely to fix it. Psychologists call this the “analytical rumination hypothesis,” and it is supported by research…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE