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NEWS: Don’t worry be happy (Aug./Sept. 2018)

September 11th, 2018 · No Comments

Happiness eludes pursuit

By Ahmed-Zaki Hagar

A study from the University of Toronto found that a person pursuing happiness can also feel unhappy. Sam Maglio, assistant professor at the Rotman School of Management, says that he wanted to understand “the head of somebody who wanted to be happier”.

“Previous research has found that when you walk around trying to make yourself happier, you get the ironic effect where people end up feeling less happy,” he says. “We wanted to understand why that might be.”

Maglio and co-author Aekyoung Kim from Rutgers University had conducted a series of studies on how a person’s perspective on pursuing happiness can impact their happiness.

Maglio says that the reasons why pursuing happiness leaves people feeling unhappy is because they feel like they do not have enough free time. He says that viewing it as a long-term goal can negatively impact happiness.

“What our research adds is that even things that do make you feel happy, once you see them as in service of pursuing a goal, even the stuff that makes you feel happy makes you feel unhappy,” he says.

Maglio compared the pursuit of happiness to pursuing a specific goal.

“With happiness, you are never done being happy. Everyone wants to be happy all the time,” he says. “When we get in this frame of mind that says happiness is a goal we have to work towards, it reminds us that if I want to stay this happy forever, I have to keep doing the things that keep me happy forever.”

Maglio also says that social media negatively impacts happiness because people compare their current situation to the curated feed of friends who showcase the most interesting parts of their lives.

He believes that social media can have a counterproductive effect on someone’s happiness because of how people perceive fulfillment.

“Exposure to these environmental cues, be it social media or offline, would be detrimental to happiness,” he says.

Maglio found that having a gratitude journal to write down the things that make you happy can help with maintaining happiness, because it helps people focus on the present and appreciate the experience that does bring happiness.

“Focus on that one experience. Do not think about all the future time that you would need to keep doing the same stuff to maintain happiness. Focus on the one, and enjoy the one and it should bring people more lasting happiness.”

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