Panio: You take the somewhat provocative stance that chasing happiness actually makes people unhappy. I say “somewhat” because anyone who’s actually chased happiness has found that it does lead to unhappiness. Why is that? What’s the science behind why the chase makes people unhappy?
Emily: There have been a number of studies showing that when you bring people into the lab and ask them to actively try to make themselves happy, or if you manipulate them to value happiness, that they ultimately end up feeling less happy than people who you don’t [do this to]. I think there’s a number of reasons for it.
One is that in a culture such as ours, people expect to be happy. They want to be happy. They’re told constantly that happiness will lead to all these benefits. You’ll be healthier. You’ll be better-liked. Your career will be more successful. And when people fall short of [that expectation], they’re disappointed.
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