Cheerfulness fosters complacency, extremism and pride in content people

The United States was founded on the premise of the unalienable rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Happiness is one of the most commonly sought after aspirations, and it is rarely fulfilled.

Pain is inevitable, so why search to find something that cannot be fully obtained?

Regardless of the search, both happiness and sadness will exist, and accepting that is imperative to thrive. But what if happiness isn’t as worthwhile as we thought?

Research reveals that happiness cannot be felt for extended periods of time because of hedonic set points in the brain which establishes a base emotion that the body is forced to return to after a certain point.

While this makes humans extremely adaptable, it also causes a series of highs and lows that are unavoidable. This study proves that regardless of one’s personal situation, these mood shifts remain a constant factor.

Achieving goals certainly causes a temporary increase in contentment, but this feeling will always be fleeting and lead to the development of new ambitions.

Happiness is not something that can be achieved. Instead, it is simply something that can be felt, which makes it temporary.

This cyclical pattern is infinite and raises the question of why people should even seek happiness at all.

Even if one does not yearn to experience this, it will still happen.

Those who treat happiness as a goal or treat an event or object as something that should cause happiness will inescapably end up disappointed and sad.

The primary problem of a society founded on the premise of happiness is that it creates the false notion that experiencing any emotion besides that of happiness is wrong.

The concept of sadness is perceived negatively, although it is both unavoidable and necessary.

A plethora of self-help books exist promising that one will “achieve happiness” after reading its guiding words. Many of these even guarantee that once readers finally discover the most coveted status of “happy,” that they will correspondingly achieve success as well.

However, this is fictitious, as sadness is often accompanied by an immense desire for change, which is a motivating factor.

Psychologist Edward Diener’s study of happiness illustrates this, as those who reported themselves with the highest life satisfaction at a young age reported lower incomes than their unhappy counterparts. This can be attributed to the complacency portrayed by happy people, who feel little pressure to change jobs or continue education.

Additionally, when one experiences sadness, he or she processes information and events in a systemic manner which allows for a strong attention to detail to develop. This contrasts to the process of happier people, who tend to make rash decisions fueled from quick judgments.

Overall, this concept of constant happiness is misleading, as it encourages a sense of extremism which is harmful in all senses of the term.

Not only does too much cheerfulness lead to a decrease in success, but it causes a sharp increase in selfishness. As a person’s happiness intensifies, so does their pride.

Positivity makes one egotistical and less likely to relate to others. Pride due to happiness, not personal achievement, is problematic as it is proven to lead to anti-social and aggressive behavior and hinders the ability of one to be empathetic.

Additionally, an excess of happiness and pride is linked to various emotional disorders such as mania. Happiness is not exempt to the rule of moderation, which states that nothing is beneficial in excess.

The ability to embrace the fickle nature of life is crucial, and the acceptance of sadness should be encouraged. Negative feelings should not always be shied away from as they allow for personal growth and the ability to thrive and succeed.

Searching for happiness will always end in failure, as it remains a fleeting feeling. Positive feelings are inevitable and will likely come without searching for them.

America’s pursuit of happiness may never end, but there is much more to pursue instead.

Kate Kafka is a freshman English major from Walnut Creek, Calif. She can be reached at kkafka@villanova.edu. 


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