Obsessing Over Happiness: A Self-Defeating Exercise
March 29, 2021
Many people seek happiness in their lives. Surveys show that college students –all around the world –value happiness more than money
However, in pursuing happiness, we should be careful not to apply the same goal-setting techniques we typically do for work tasks. This is because setting a goal to become happier can inadvertently lead to less happiness. An obsessive pursuit of happiness can be self-defeating.
In an experimental study, participants were assigned to either “listen to music to either make themselves as happy as possible” or to “listen to a piece of music.” It was found that listening to music with the goal of being happier reduced their self-reported mood. Moreover, in another experimental condition where participants had been told to monitor their happiness, they showed substantial decrements in their self-reported mood compared to those who were not monitoring their happiness.
Why is this the case?
Obsessing over happiness and whether one ishappy detracts from the enjoyable experiences themselves. You are constantly thinking about whether something is making you happy rather than being immersed in the experience itself.
Further, it can create an unrealistic expectation of requiring happiness from specific experiences that are not guaranteed. Imagine expecting your friends to bring you happiness. Or requiring your activities to fulfill your desires for happiness. Any instance that is perceived to fall short leads to more significant disappointment.
Instead of obsessing over happiness, let’s simply experience it.
Dr. Louis Tay
Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science. Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week!
To join the conversation and learn more,
use the hashtag #PurdueStepstoLeaps on social channels:
- Well Being Tips
- Courageous Impact
- Positive Words
- Better Ways of Consuming News Media
- Saying 'Thank You'
- Alternatives to Screen Time
- Challenging Conversations
- Focusing Illusion
- Being Well Amidst Grief
- Virtue, Beauty, Meaning, and Hope Amidst Turbulent Times
- Keeping up with work – Part II
- Keeping up with work – Part I
- Self-Compassion: Juggling To-Dos, Do Nots and Did Nots
- Practicing Kindness from a Distance Amidst a Pandemic
- Actively Confined
- Sleep: What We Need and How to Get More
- Resilience Amid the Job Search Process
- Remaining Hopeful
- Community Care in a Racism Pandemic
- Growth and Humility During Disagreements
- Mindfulness Meditation
- Physical Activity Tips
- Will Finding the One Make Me Happy
- Reducing Multitasking to Improve Productivity
- Presidential Elections and Coping with Disappointment
- Forgiving Hurts
- Seeing the World Through Rose-tinted Glasses: Why that May be a Good Thing
- Being Thankful During Thanksgiving
- Positively Reappraising Exam Stress
- Growth Mindsets in Online Learning
- Feeling Inadequate When Comparing With Others
- Asking for Help
- Staying Active During a Pandemic
- Interrupted Work and Stress
- You Don’t Need to Feel Grateful to be Grateful
- The Amazing Benefits of Happiness
- Opening Up for Healing
- Persisting and Overcoming Challenges
- Obsessing Over Happiness: A Self-Defeating Exercise
- Overcoming Challenges One Step at a Time
- Happiness in Seeking the Welfare of Others
- Exercising Toward Greater Happiness
- Exams: Failing Does Not Mean You Are a Failure