When people place a high value on their own happiness it can lead to less happiness, especially in contexts where they most expect to feel happy.
This tendency to expect happiness and then to feel disappointed or to blame oneself for not feeling happy enough, has been linked to greater depressive symptoms and deficits in well-being.
However, researchers have also observed when people prioritise behaviours that maximise the likelihood of their future happiness – rather than attempting to directly increase their levels of happiness “in the moment” – they are more likely to experience improvements (rather than deficits) in their levels of well-being.
This may mean engaging in activities that provide a sense of achievement or purpose, such as volunteering time or completing difficult tasks, or constructing daily routines that support well-being.
This work suggests pursuing happiness indirectly, rather than making it the main focus, could turn our search for positivity from toxic to tonic.
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