I blog for World Mental Health Day

You may be surprised to learn that “moderation in all things” applies to moods, too. June Gruber, a professor of psychology at Yale University compares happiness to food. We need it, but too much of it can actually cause problems. While happiness is associated with many positives like a stronger immune response, longer life, and ability to endure painful experiences, it also has a “darker side”.

Research suggests that happier may people tend to:

1) Engage in riskier behavior

Dr. June Gruber’s research suggests that too much happiness can lead to higher levels of risk-taking behavior, excess alcohol and drug use, binge eating. Negative emotions, like fear, have a protective value warning of dangers.

2) Drop out of school earlier & earn less money

People with the highest life satisfaction at young ages are reported to drop out of school earlier and later in life have lower income levels earning about $3500 less than those who reported less life satisfaction in early ages according to research by Dr. Edward Diener.

3) Make snap judgments that reflect stereotyping

Dr. Galen Bodenhausen’s research in 1994 simulated a student court –  half the students were told to think about mundane activities from the previous day and the other half were put in a positive mood. The ones in a positive mood easily convicted Juan who beat up John while the others were divided.

4) Be more easily deceived

People want a happy jury of happy people are easier to deceive, can’t detect lies as easy and can’t tell a thief from an honest person as suggested by Dr. Joe Forgas’ research.

5) Act more selfish

Dr. Joe Forgas’ research found that when asked to divide raffle tickets, happier people keep more for themselves while sad people tend to divide tickets evenly.

Instead of focusing on trying so hard to feel happy try these strategies:

1) Focus on developing high quality relationships
2) Engaging in meaningful activities that bring joy
3) Accept that negative emotions have their place

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson discovered that at a ratio of at least 3 to 1 positive to negative emotions is where people flourish and thrive in life and relationships.