Stop pursuing happiness if you want to be happy, say psychologists

Call off the pursuit of happiness if you want to be happy, say psychologists

Call off the pursuit of happiness if you want to be happy, say psychologists (pic: istockphoto.com/michaklootwijk)

It sounds a cruel irony, but if you put too much pressure on yourself to be happy it can have totally the opposite effect, according to psychologists. Focusing on your own fulfilment rather than your connections with others can leave you feeling lonely, they say.

Researchers from the University of Denver and the University of California, Berkeley, asked people to fill out an online questionnaire to gauge how far they valued happiness. They then filled out journals at the end of the day, reporting on stressful events during the day and how stressed and lonely they felt about them. The results showed that the higher someone values happiness, the lonelier they feel during a stressful event – regardless of their age, gender or background.

A second part of the experiment tested whether prioritising happiness is the cause of loneliness, asking people to watch a film clip after reading an article about the importance of happiness. Again, those who had higher expectations of happiness ended up feeling disappointed. The research authors say: “A desire for happiness can lead to reduced happiness and wellbeing. It may be that to reap the benefits of happiness people should want it less.”

This study backs up recent research from Germany suggesting that pessimists have a longer, happier life than optimists.

But rather than pessimism or optimism, perhaps it’s realism – and being grateful for what we have rather than continually wanting something more – that leads to real happiness? I’m reminded of the quote from Epictetu: “A wise man is he who does not grieve for the thing which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”

Gaming improves wellbeing in older generation, says academic study

Psychologists say older people who play video games are happier than those who don’t. (pic: istockphoto.com/Feverpitched)

You might traditionally expect people around retirement age to favour pursuits like crosswords, bridge, bowls or knitting. But scientists have shown that people aged 60-plus are active in more unusual ways. They’ve found that the senior generation who play video games are happier than those who don’t.

Psychologists from North Carolina State University in the US researched ‘Successful aging through video games‘ with 140 people aged 63 and over. They wanted to discover the differences in emotional wellbeing and depression between older adults who play video games and older adults who don’t game at all.

They found that older people who played video games regularly or occasionally had higher levels of wellbeing and fewer incidence of depression compared with older people who aren’t gamers. “Findings suggest that playing may serve as a positive activity associated with successful aging,” concluded the researchers.