Tag Archives: happiness

Happiness: is there a dark side?

Over the last 20 years or so there has been an explosion of literature and accompanying research on the science of happiness. Most of this research has been devoted to understanding what makes people happy (or unhappy)? In general, the research on happiness up to this point has been singularly focused on maximizing positive emotions and minimizing negative emotions. If you need an example of this focus, I encourage you to take a stroll through your nearest local bookstore Borders Barnes & Noble and examine the section marked “Psychology”. What you’ll find is a slew of books on becoming happier.

Clearly, there are benefits to experiencing positive emotion and costs to experiencing negative emotion and research bears this out. For one, experiences of chronic negative emotion are bad for your health. Other work suggests that increased positive emotion enhances your motivations to affiliate with and help others. Still other research suggests that having income levels that are above poverty, moderately contributes to one’s happiness, though not as much as you might expect. In general, you get the picture: There is a lot of research out there suggesting positive good, negative bad.

However, recent psychological inquiry has begun to ask the question, is happiness always good? That is, are there potential costs to seeking out happiness?