How Smart People Can Stop Being Miserable

How Smart People Can Stop Being Miserable

Does intelligence make you happier?

Some research suggests it might.

But there’s also some research that indicates intelligent people might think, or overthink more and might, therefore, worry more and so … suffer more anxiety and worry and unhappiness.

As with most things … it all depends! And so, if you’d like to know how to USE your intelligence to be less unhappy and more happy then read on …

via the Atlantic by Arthur C Brooks

Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know,” an unnamed character casually remarks in Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Garden of Eden. You might say that this is a corollary of the much more famous “Ignorance is bliss.”

The latter recalls phenomena such as the Dunning-Kruger effect—in which people lacking skills and knowledge in a particular area innocently underestimate their own incompetence—and the illusion of explanatory depth, which can prompt autodidacts on social media to excitedly present complex scientific phenomena, thinking they understand them in far greater depth than they really do.

The Hemingway hypothesis, however, is less straightforward. I can think of a lot of unhappy intellectuals, to be sure. But is intelligence per se their problem? Happiness scholars have studied this question, and the answer is—as in so many parts of life—it depends. The gifts you possess can lift you up or pull you down; it all depends on how you use them. Many people see intelligence as a way to get ahead of others. But to get happier, we need to do the opposite.

You might assume that intelligence—whether it be the conventional IQ kind, emotional intelligence, musical talent, or some other dimension along which a person can excel—raises happiness, all else being equal. After all, people with higher cognitive ability should logically have more exciting life opportunities than others. They should also acquire more resources with which to enhance their well-being.

In general, however, there is no correlation between general intelligence and life satisfaction at the individual level. That principle does mask a few wrinkles. In 2022, researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and Fordham University looked at the association between well-being and various building blocks of neurocognitive ability: memory, processing speed, reasoning, spatial visualization, and vocabulary. The only components of intelligence that they found to be positively related to happiness were spatial visualization, memory, and processing speed—but those relationships were fleeting and age-related.

More interesting, the researchers also found a strongly negative association between happiness and vocabulary. To explain this, they offered a hypothesis: People with a large vocabulary “self-select more challenging environments, and as a result may encounter more daily stressors and reduced positive affect.” In other words, loquacious logophiles might have byzantine lives and find themselves in manifold precarious situations that lower their jouissance. (They talk themselves into misery.)

The whole intelligence-and-happiness question needs more research, which I suspect it will receive in the coming years. But I think there is a clear reason that something as valuable as intelligence, especially manifested in one’s ability to communicate, doesn’t necessarily lead to a higher quality of life…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE