Trying to be happy should result in more happiness, right? Not so fast. Aekyoung Kim of Rutgers University and Sam Maglio of the University of Toronto recently released a study on happiness for the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. And as a lifelong cynic and generally skeptical person, this new report brings great joy to my cold, pessimistic heart.
The pair set out to investigate if pursuing happiness can actually make people unhappy. Turns out, it can.
If one approaches happiness as an end goal, it can create a sense of time scarcity, making you anxious that you’ll never be able to achieve full happiness no matter what you do. Which is a total bummer.
The research team asked one group of people to list the things that would make them happy, or try to make themselves feel happy while watching a boring (their words) movie about building bridges. The other group was asked to list things that had already made them happy or watch a slapstick comedy. The first group was designed to make people feel like happiness was a fixed goal, and when the researchers asked each group to report how much time they felt they had, the first group reported feelings of time scarcity.
“Time seems to vanish amid the pursuit of happiness, but only when seen as a goal requiring continued pursuit,” explain the researchers. “This finding adds depth to the growing body of work suggesting that the pursuit of happiness can ironically undermine well-being.”
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