Happiness is a gift. Being happy all the time can be a curse. Psychologists Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener point out that happy people tend to be less persuasive, lazy thinkers and too trusting. For example, they don’t take the time to properly develop an argument and consider objections others may have. Life simply feels too good to work hard.
What’s even more surprising, the conscious pursuit of happiness can make us unhappy. The more we chase it the more it eludes us. You might have experienced this. Let’s say you go to a party that you’ve been looking forward to all week. When you get there, you still feel a little stressed because of work, but tell yourself to be happy and smile. That forced smile takes immense energy and probably depresses you far beyond the original strain.
And then there is the always-positive, always-happy boss cheerleading you on to higher and higher performance only making you feel harassed and demoralized. Hint: according to Kashdan and Biswas-Diener, commiserating with your employees when the work is tough and expectations unrealistically high, can be much more productive and emotionally uplifting than high fiving without a cause.
In general, our tendency to divide our emotional experiences into good and bad often leads us to prioritize happiness over fear, anger and sadness. We forget that those “negative” emotions serve important functions such as dealing with loss.
When a client asked me how I was feeling shortly after my mother passed away, I spontaneously answered, “Not bad often enough.” I was as shocked by this statement as she was. There was deep truth to it, however. Because I prioritized work over my grief, it took me much longer to get beyond the initial raw pain.
What’s the take-away? All emotions are important and have their rightful place in life. And, yes, when happiness strikes, embrace it with all your heart and offer the world your most dazzling smile.