So many of us seek happiness as our greatest goal in life. What if I told you that trying to be happy was making you unhappy?
New research is starting to show us that the pursuit of happiness is getting the way of actually being happy.
How can this be?
It’s because we often find what we’re looking for. Science calls this “confirmation bias”, and it’s based on the principle that the brain looks for evidence that fits with its mental model of the world.
So if you’re constantly aiming to be happy, you’re creating a belief system that you’re not currently happy and you need something different in your life to attain happiness.
What’s the alternative? Embrace mindfulness in the present moment, which is about accepting and observing your feelings without judging them or needing them to be positive or happy.
Here’s some articles on embracing mindfulness in the present moment:
- 25 Profound Mindfulness Meditation Quotes That Will Help You Find the Real You
- A Buddhist Monk Reveals How To Use Mindfulness When You’re Going Through Tough Times
- A Mindfulness Expert Reveals 10 Steps to Find Stillness in a World That Moves Quickly
The science of emotional diversity
People who show a full range of emotions, such as anger, worry and sadness, are actually healthier than those whose range tends to be mostly on the positive side. This has been demonstrated by studies that show that overly pursuing happiness can be detrimental to your health.
In a study of over 35,000 people, researchers that people demonstrating high emotional diversity were less likely to be depressed than people who consistently only show positive emotion alone.
In another study of 1,300 people, the people showing greater emotional diversity used fewer medications, didn’t go to the doctor as often, exercised more and at better than those with a more limited emotional range.
It turns out that striving to be happy all of the time affects our creativity levels. One study showed that when we experience extreme or intense happiness, we tend to lose our connection to creativity.
There’s another study that has found those on the high end of always being happy tend to be less flexible in adapting to challenging situations. It’s more difficult for these people to adjust. Also, they are more likely to engage in sexual promiscuity or take extra risks to pursue pleasurable feelings. In fact, children who were regarded as “highly cheerful” are more likely to die at a younger age due to riskier behavior.
What you can do
Now that you’ve read about some of the research suggesting that striving to be happy can be bad for your health, what can you do next?
It doesn’t mean that happiness is a bad thing. Rather, it’s important to let the feelings of happiness emerge naturally. If you’re genuinely feeling happy, then feel it!
But if you’re feeling sad or angry, then feel that too.
Don’t place so much judgement on yourself for whatever you’re feeling. Nothing is good or bad, only thinking makes it so.
Here are some more articles you may enjoy reading on mindfulness and happiness.
- The Dalai Lama Explains Why Being Kind to Others is the Secret to Happiness
- 15 Osho Quotes That Will Make You Rethink Life, Love and Happiness
Originally published on The Power of Ideas.