I read a most intriguing article this week. It is from the magazine The Psychotherapy Networker, and was written by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener. The title is “The Downside of Happiness.” Here is the link if you want to check it out: http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/currentissue/item/2551-the-downside-of-happiness
As a person that struggles with depression, I have certainly spent a lot of time pursuing being happy. As a single person, one of the most repetitive things I hear is, “You have to be happy with yourself before you can meet someone else.” The next logical step in that thinking, is that if you are alone, you must not have achieved being happy alone. (The next step is, “It’s my own fault if I’m alone.”)
The article doesn’t debate the obvious benefits of happiness, it just points out the balance of the other side. I won’t go into details, but let me say that the research seemed well founded and ethical. Here are some of their interesting conclusions.
“Researchers have found that when you enter into a situation with the goal of becoming happier, you actually make that less likely to occur.” “…adults with the greatest desire to be happy felt lonelier, more depressed…” Well, that explains a lot.
The upside of being less than happy? Also pretty intriguing. “…if your goal is to gain assistance, this is the wrong time to feel happy, express happiness, and minimize the unpleasantness of sadness.” When you need to be a highly effective advocate for yourself or someone else, it is good to “own your feelings of frustration and effectively communicate them.” In the workplace and other environments, it is better to let everyone know that it’s safe to feel a full range of feelings, rather than being sure that positivity “reigns supreme.”
The article also warns us to distinguish between wanting and liking. It is human tendency to want something far more than we actually like them for the long-term once we actually get them. Hmmm…
Summary statements: “…under certain predictable circumstances, being mildly unhappy seems to be better than being happy.” And “…if you want to be surrounded by productive, creative, satisfied people, create an environment where diverse feelings and behaviors are honored.”
Don’t get me wrong. I still want to feel more happy than I am. I most certainly do. But I admit I felt a little better after reading this article. I especially love it when I have figured something out on my own and then read “evidence” to back it up later. What I mean specifically, is that I developed a tagline when my first book came out and I still stick to it today. EMBRACE IT ALL. Own all of it, be honest with all of it. The happy. The sad. The hard. The easy. The ugly. The connection. The loneliness. The positive. The negative. I will hope for happiness, but I won’t be afraid to admit my sadness. And apparently, that’s not such a bad thing.
Then I got an email from my friend I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. She sent me this song about hope: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KIhYZQ_ovw&app=desktop It’s worth cutting and pasting the link!
The words describe the darkness without holding back. Then it refers to hope in God and love. I think that can also apply to any person here on earth that loves and cares for us, even if it’s not a “significant other.” It was great timing for me. Instead of “pursuing” happiness, I think I will concentrate more on hope. Sounds like a good plan, even according to “research!”