Focusing on happiness can make you less happy

Updated: May 22, 2011, 12:29 PM IST

Washington: A new research has shown that pursuing happiness may be a reasonable aim, but making happiness a personal goal can backfire.

The researchers found that women who valued happiness more tended to report being less happy and more depressed than women who didn`t place such a high premium on a lasting smile, reports Live Science.

"Wanting to be happy can make you less happy," said study researcher Iris Mauss, an assistant professor in psychology at the University of Denver.

"If you explicitly and purposely focus on happiness, that appears to have a self-defeating quality."

Mauss explained she is not saying, "Don`t try to be happy," but rather that an exaggerated focus on happiness can have downsides. It`s certainly not always the case that pursuing happiness is a bad thing. If you give people the right tools to pursue happiness, then they can increase their happiness and well-being.”

She said there were some methods that may ultimately help people achieve happiness without the negative effects that accompany its pursuit.

One way, she said, may be for people to learn to engage their emotions by doing activities they enjoy, while taking the focus off the goal of happiness itself.

Another is to change the type of happiness one pursues.