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3 Happiness Myths That Are Making You Unhappy
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As a welcome contrast from “negative” psychology’s concentration on symptoms and diseases, positive psychology’s emphasis on pleasure and well-being may have come at a price. If achieving happiness becomes your only objective in life, and you are unable to do it, something is really wrong with you. “I should be happy, no matter what” is a motto that people have accepted entirely, and it’s not apparent how it got to this point. Satisfaction-as-a-goal attitude is becoming more prevalent as governments judge their performance in servicing their inhabitants using overall happiness surveys.
When it comes to happiness, Murat Yildirim and John Maltby of the University of Leicester have shown that it includes both functional and dysfunctional components. Positively, a sense of well-being may encourage individuals to see the bright side of things, which in turn can help them be more adaptable. Disrupted happiness “has adverse repercussions on well-being and mental health,” according to research. Yildirim and Maltby argue that most studies on happiness only look at its practical effects, which misses the bigger picture. When a person’s idea of happiness goes awry, “intervention and prevention services to foster positive functioning” may be necessary.
The Road to Irrational Happiness
The “irrational” assumption that individuals must be happy at all costs becomes dysfunctional, according to international academics. Yildirim and Maltby use terminology from Albert Ellis’ rational-emotive theory to further describe irrational happiness beliefs as having the form of “should,” “ought to,” or “must” being joyful. People who hold these views begin to see everything that occurs to them through the prism of these absolutist ideas.
Imagine yourself at an event that you had been looking forward to as a way to snatch happiness from the jaws of defeat. Were you and a friend planning a concert by a favorite artist together? You’d been imagining how happy you’d be for months. However, this fantasy gradually morphed into the unreasonable conviction that you “must” enjoy every single minute of the evening since you wanted to love the concert so much. Things began to go awry as soon as you arrived: In addition to being uncomfortable with your shoes, you also had a pressing urge to use the toilet (but were unable to do so). When you think about it, “No!” you scream in your head, “I was meant to be joyful.”
The road from excited expectation to holding oneself to unreasonable standards, as you can see, precludes you from getting any pleasure from a less-than-perfect (but maybe still delightful) evening. People can better handle events like concert that fail to meet an unreasonably high ideal of perfection if they can change their illogical ideas, Yildirim and Maltby argue. The authors devised a simple three-item measure that could be correlated with observable adaptive outcomes to support this constructive idea of happiness beliefs.
3 Happiness Myths
It’s possible that you’ve already figured out which three things may be used to create an illogical happiness index. Items produced by Yildirim in his dissertation at the University of Leicester are listed below. Depending on how strongly you disagree or agree with each statement, you may give yourself a score ranging from 1 to 7.
- I believe that I am entitled to complete happiness in all areas of my life.
I must be happy in every part of my life at all times.
All areas of my existence should bring me joy.
The authors found that persons who were inclined to agree with one of the questions also agreed with the others, based on a 2022 online sample of 166 adults (average age 40 years old). Participant scores ranged from 7 to 17, with the majority falling somewhere in the lower half of the scale. So, as you can see, there are some people out there who have taken the illogical believing road.
Yildirim and Maltby argued that irrational happiness beliefs are part of a larger constellation of an individual’s approach to situations by comparing the scores on the 3-item test with a measure of what’s called BAS, or the tendency to avoid unpleasant stimuli (aversive motives) versus BIS, the tendency to approach pleasant ones (approach motives). Those with a greater level of illogical pleasure beliefs, according to the Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory, should have lower approach motivations and higher avoidance motivations.
The authors, on the other hand, argue that personality alone cannot account for the difficulties faced by those who have high levels of illogical happiness beliefs. With the addition of context-specific questionnaires, the researchers asked individuals to score their usage of coping methods, which included: confronting the problem; avoiding the situation; attempting to merely feel better about it (emotion-focused); and reappraisal (reframing the situation).
According to the authors, a statistical analysis of personality and coping identified two overarching characteristics. Adaptive coping methods, such as approach, emotional control, and reappraisal, were all included in the BAS-Approach factor. People who scored high on the BIS-Avoidance component, on the other hand, were more inclined to act on avoidance reasons and to use coping mechanisms based on avoidance. As a result, it seems that feeling defeated by stressful events may be a mix of a desire to avoid unpleasantness in general and a propensity to run away from situations that seem overpowering, as well.
People who believe they “should” be happy are more likely to seek out positive rewards and, when faced with stress, attempt to change their thoughts and feelings about the situation in order to be happier, despite the fact that the BAS-Approach factor may appear to have greater adaptive qualities in terms of happiness beliefs. “If pleasure appears fleeting and difficult to acquire, it is because one enables their incorrect belief system to influence their happiness,” the authors write.
According to the conclusions of Yildirim-Maltby, the pursuit of happiness is bound to failure. Stress may be made worse by your attempts to extract enjoyment from it; as a result, the less you can manage with it efficiently, the more happiness you will continue to resist. Using the disastrous concert as an example, attempting to make oneself happy when things don’t go as planned may lead to disappointment. Don’t allow the thought that happiness is the ultimate goal to cloud your capacity to appreciate the good things in your life, such as finding your way to the toilet, for example.
Rather than striving to make something nice happen, it seems that accepting events as they are is the key to allowing pleasure to develop from them rather than making it the driving force. Ask yourself why it means so much the next time you’re unhappy and want to throw in the towel. Aside from money, what else is significant in one’s life?
The assumption that individuals must be happy at all costs becomes dysfunctional, according to international academics. Disrupted happiness “has adverse repercussions on well-being and mental health,” according to research. When a person’s idea of happiness goes awry, “intervention and prevention services may be necessary”. Yildirim and Maltby argue that irrational happiness beliefs are part of a larger constellation of an individual’s approach to situations. People can better handle events that fail to meet an unreasonably high ideal of perfection if they can change their ideas.
The authors devised a simple three-item measure that could be correlated with observable outcomes. People who believe they “should” be happy are more likely to seek out positive rewards. The pursuit of happiness is bound to failure, according to Yildirim-Maltby and colleagues. Accepting events as they are is the key to allowing pleasure to develop from them.
- Yıldırım, M., & Maltby, J. (2022). Examining irrational happiness beliefs within an adaptation-continuum model of personality and coping. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 40(1), 175–189. doi: 10.1007/s10942-021-00405-3
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