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Don't Be Happy

Are Creativity and Sadness Linked?

Wake Forest University professor Eric G. Wilson, worries that while serious depression is a problem worthy of treatment, "mild to moderate sadness," or melancholia, is too often responded to with medication [source: NPR]. Wilson thinks that embracing some sadness can boost creative thinking and allow for more complex relationships with the rest of the world.

Striving solely for happiness is, in Wilson's view, to ignore a fundamental aspect of the human condition. He also points to the great history of artists, dreamers, thinkers and innovators who derived inspiration from being melancholy. Melancholia then, Wilson writes, represents a more realistic middle ground between sheer bliss and depression, a place where new insights can be derived and creative thinking performed [source: NPR].

There are actually some compelling ideas against happiness. Naysayers aren't against happiness; rather, they point out some of the effects of happiness that may negatively affect people besides the person who claims to be happy.

What are the downsides of happiness? For one thing, happier people are more prone to prejudicial behavior [source: Holt]. One possible explanation is that a contented, lackadaisical or happy attitude allows people to easily turn to stereotypes or other caricatures when making judgments. Happy people also can have excessively high self-regard -- to the point where they think that their thoughts or actions can control events clearly beyond their control. Similarly, concerns have been voiced that happy people may be easier to manipulate, particularly by unscrupulous political leaders. But happier people show higher levels of political involvement. Happy people generally live longer, but one study found that "cheerful and optimistic" U.S. children actually did not live as long as others, so draw your own conclusions [source: Holt].

There are other reasons not to reach for happiness at all costs. A blind pursuit of happiness may neglect some complicated effects associated with socioeconomic improvement. People who improve their station in life often report being less happy because with money and personal freedom come a variety of unintended choices and desires. More opportunities are open to the wealthier person, but so potentially are feelings of inferiority and a desire for more, more, more.

For more information about happiness, unhappiness and all manner of related topics, please look over the links on the next page.

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