(The following excerpt taken from The Problem With Happiness by Tom Kashdan, Ph.D., recently appeared on psychologytoday.com. To view it in its entirety please click on the link below.)
Can trying to be happy interfere with creating happiness?
Asked what is the fundamental objective of life, the vast majority of people answer quickly and definitively – happiness. Their lives are organized around trying to be happy. Sounds good, right? Sounds even better when you read about the scientific benefits linked to happiness.
Compared to less happy people…happy people…
– have stronger, more intimate friendships.
– are more likely to be in satisfying romantic relationships.
– have better immunological functioning.
– sleep better.
– are more creative.
– spend more time helping other people (altruism, generosity).
– are viewed positively by other people
– extract more pleasure and meaning when working, socializing, or playing.
The United States is obsessed with happiness.
There are cultural pressures to be happy. Go on amazon.com and look at how many books have happiness in the title. Go on google and plug in “happiness coaching.” Look at how many people are waiting by their phone for you to cough up cash to learn to be happier. There are even university degrees that can teach you to teach people to be happier (for only $40,000+ per year)! (Note: there is more money to be made training trainers than being a happiness trainer). Has anyone considered what this pressure to be happy does to people?
Thankfully, a few scientists started to study this phenomena. What they found is that as people place more importance on being happy, they become more unhappy and depressed. The pressure to be happy makes people less happy. Organizing your life around trying to become happier, making happiness the primary objective of life, gets in the way of actually becoming happy.