Looking for happiness could actually stress you out and make you even sadder than before!
How? It’s a time-consuming task, cautions a new study that was published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.
So, if you were frustrated by the lack of time to accomplish all that’s already on your to-do list… the pursuit of happiness will only add to load and upset you further!
Study participants who felt they already achieved the ‘happy state’ complained less about time scarcity than those on a quest for happiness. This led researchers to conclude that the search for bliss might have the opposite effect.
My oldest would be terribly upset to read my paraphrasing of the study findings. The little extracts of years of study that find their way to the news (which I like to quote) annoy him. But even if this was not the key finding, there’s still an important message here for us less-than-happy folks.
How far are we willing to go to achieve ‘our definition’ of happiness?
For many contentment is about having arrived economically and socially. Wealth and status are the most obvious yardsticks, especially for the middle-class. Yet the rising popularity of godmen (and women) and spiritual advisors (gurus) who often have a celebrated following, reveals that the rich and powerful haven’t found bliss (peace of mind?) either.
They’re still looking. And, just as vulnerable to the machinations of crafty individuals as the marginalized who are seeking a miracle to lift them out of their financial and social misery.
Social media sites like Facebook and WhatsApp offer plenty of inspiration for what ‘true happiness’ should look like—a family of achievers, fabulous house(s), fancy cars, multiple vacations and of course, social popularity. Only the honest admit that despite their achievements, happiness continues to elude them.
Could that be because we can never be truly satisfied?
Examining one’s definition of happiness, might give us a better shot at finding it.
As teenagers, it could simply be hanging out with your friends at the mall. To a new mother, it is the joy she experiences cuddling her baby. For a professional, it might be job satisfaction and acknowledgement from the boss. But as the years wear on, being happy is not simple or easy because we want more… and then some.
The study suggests that the contented ones appreciate the ‘here and now’. They live and love their lives, and don’t envy or covet everybody else’s (my take!). Like wishing your house or paycheck was as big (or larger) than your sister’s.
Which brings us to the critical question—will we recognize happiness when it arrives?
Psychologists say happiness is a state of mind and that all of us have the power to achieve, even create it!
The formula could be as simple as believing that the grass is greener on our own side of the fence. Our grandmothers and those before them didn’t read books or Google ways to find happiness. They appreciated life as it was.
Dan Gilbert, the author of ‘Stumbling on Happiness’ takes this a bit further. He recommends that we leverage our ability to think ahead. Meaning—we can plan to be happy… or even fake it, till we have it.
That’s positive thinking at work! Another billion-dollar industry like the pursuit of happiness. Do we really need books, seminars and workshops to understand how negative thoughts affect our physical, emotional and social well-being? Or studies to point out that positivity can improve opportunities, relationships, health and quality of life?
Haven’t we all been impressed by the few (or maybe just one) who smile their way through all their tribulations. Perhaps we ought to emulate their attitude rather than envy their popularity or status.
If you like to crunch the numbers, it’s worth remembering… for every minute that you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness.