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 below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- "9 Tips in Life that Lead to Happiness." Lifehack. Nov. 8, 2005. http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifehack/9-tips-in-life-that-lead-to-happiness.html
- "About the Happy Planet Index." The Happy Planet Index. http://www.happyplanetindex.org/about.htm
- "Arguing the Upside of Being Down." NPR. Feb. 11, 2008. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18885211
- "World Database of Happiness." http://www1.eur.nl/fsw/happiness/
- Allen, Colin. "The Benefits of Meditation." Psychology Today. April 24, 2003.http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-20030424-000003.html
- Babauta, Leo. "The Mindfull Guide for the Super Busy: How to Live Life to the Fullest." Zen Habits. April 29, 2009.http://zenhabits.net/2009/04/the-mindfulness-guide-for-the-super-busy-how-to-live-life-to-the-fullest/
- Belluck, Pam. "Strangers May Cheer You Up, Study Says." New York Times. Dec. 5, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/05/health/05happy-web.html
- Bloom, Paul. "Natural Happiness." New York Times. April 19, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/19/magazine/19wwln-lede-t.html
- Fox, Justin. "Don't Ditch the GDP." Time. Apr. 10, 2008. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1729697,00.html
- Holt, Jim. "Against Happiness." New York Times. June 20, 2004. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/20/magazine/20WWLN.html
- Holt, Jim. "Oh, Joy." New York Times. Feb. 12, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/12/books/review/12holt.html
- Karnaiewicz, Sarah. "Do today's kids have 'nature-deficit disorder'?" Salon. Jun. 2, 2005. http://dir.salon.com/story/mwt/feature/2005/06/02/Louv/
- Leonhardt, David. "Maybe Money Does Buy Happiness After All." New York Times. April 16, 2008.http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/16/business/16leonhardt.htm
- Lloyd, Robin. "Best Benefit of Exercise? Happiness." LiveScience. Fox News. May 30, 2006.http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,197466,00.html
- Max, D.T. "Happiness 101." New York Times. Jan. 7, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/07/magazine/07happiness.t.html
- Porter, Eduardo. "Happiness is a) Warm Puppy, b) Money, c) None." New York Times. July 27, 2008.http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/27/opinion/27sun3.html
- Potash, James. "Running From Depression?" ABC News. Aug. 22, 2008. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/DepressionNews/Story?id=5627302&page=1
- Rubin, Gretchen. "Eight Tips for Conquering Anger and Irritability." Slate. April 29, 2009. http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/happinessproject/archive/2009/04/29/be-happier-eight-tips-for-conquering-anger-and-irritability.aspx
- Rubin, Gretchen. "Happiness Myth No. 3 -- Venting Anger Relieves It." The Happiness Project. Mar. 4, 2009.http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2009/03/happiness-myth-no-3-venting-anger-relieves-it.html
- Rubin, Gretchen. "Today's prosaic secret to happiness? Long underwear." The Happiness Project. Feb. 6, 2007.http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2007/02/todays_prosaic_.html
- Smith, Tovia. "Finding Happiness in a Harvard Classroom." NPR. Mar. 22, 2006. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5295168
- Stehr, Emily. "Kahneman, Krueger develop happiness survey." The Daily Princetonian. Jan. 14, 2005.http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2005/01/14/11812/
- Wolfers, Justin. "The Economics of Happiness, Part 1: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox." Freakonomics. New York Times. April 16, 2008. http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/16/the-economics-of-happiness-part-1-reassessing-the-easterlin-paradox/
- Wolfers, Justin. "Happiness Inequality #1: The Facts." Freakonomics. New York Times. Aug. 4, 2008.http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/04/happiness-inequality-1-the-facts/
HowStuffWorks looks at a study showing that mothers prefer daughters and fathers prefer sons, regardless of economic background.