Can You Be Too Happy?

Curmudgeons, keep those frowns upside down! New research suggests that being excessive happiness has a dark side

What side of the bed did you wake up on today? If your mood is less than sunny-side up, don’t worry, be unhappy. Things might just be looking up for you. New research conducted by psychologists at Yale University suggests that happiness isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be -- it may not be beneficial at every level, in every context, for every reason, in every variety. 

According to an article in the Washington Post, there are some significant side effects to constantly looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. Perpetually perky people can become more gullible, selfish and less successful than their cynical counterparts. Also, says lead researcher June Gruber, Ph.D., “very high levels of positive feelings predict risk-taking behaviors, excess alcohol and drug consumption, binge eating, and may lead us to neglect threats.”

What’s more, overly happy people are prone to making snap judgments or even stereotyping. Experiments showed that cheerful subjects couldn’t detect lies or identify a thief as easily as those in negative moods --thus, making the happier group easier to deceive.

This hyper-happy syndrome even extends into our professional lives: People who experience little sadness or anxiety are rarely dissatisfied with their jobs. As such, they don’t feel compelled to get more education or change careers. In other words, the "Take This Job and Shove It" attitude can ultimately lead to a more successful career path and up to $3,500 more in annual income, according to the study.

Remember, our emotions adapt to help us survive: Anger preps us to fight. Fear compels us to flee. Psychologists say that sadness has cues too, prompting us to think more systematically and in greater detail. Think about it: When you’re elated, you don’t pay attention to silly things like details. Woo-hoo! Celebration time, come on! Champagne and cake for everybody!  

So, while joy can make us live longer and make us more resistant to pain, just like food, excessive amounts aren’t good for us. This makes sense to a serotonin-deprived, smart aleck like me, who’s often accused of not being the most positive person on the planet. Finally! My lifelong cynicism is redeemed! So while it’s good to ac-cen-tu-ate the positive, the negative ain’t so bad. Hakuna matata, and all that jazz.

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