You might think that being happy is the fairly obvious answer to all of your problems. But it turns out that happiness might in fact be the worst solution ever to one of life’s biggest problems: the inevitability of death. According to a recent story by Richard Alleyne in the Telegraph — “Feeling happy? Don’t be too smug as chances are you will die young” — people who are excessively joyful are more likely to die young than their more dour peers.
Writes Alleyne: “Researchers found that children who are rated ‘highly cheerful’ at school went onto die younger than their more reserved class mates. This is because they are likely to lead more carefree lives full of danger and unhealthy lifestyle choices, it is believed. They may also be more likely to suffer from mental problems such as bipolar depression which sees moods swing from extreme happiness to debilitating sadness. Being too cheerful — especially at inappropriate times — can also rouse anger in others, increasing the risk of a person coming to harm.”
The researchers also blamed modern pressure to be happy on worsening depression in some, leaving them feeling in some way defective if they’re not naturally upbeat and positive — and that trying to be happy, and unable to make what feels like progress, leaves some people less content than they were before. And, yet again, these researchers reaffirmed that true happiness is not a product of money or status, but comes from cultivating meaningful relationships with friends and family. Says one researcher: “The best way to increase your happiness is to stop worrying about being happy and instead divert your energy to nurturing the social bonds you have with other people.”
Much of the happiness research out there is fairly new, and I’ve seen studies contradicting this one that claim that being content and having a positive outlook can actually promote longevity — which actually seems more intuitive to me, as one might assume that being happy would mean that you’re less stressed out, already have close relationships and aren’t suffering in some grand way. But I’ve also seen evidence that being more conscientious — really thinking about your actions and their consequences — can make you live longer. And really thinking about actions and consequences and acting responsibly isn’t necessarily a recipe for bliss.
So what do you think? Do you think being happy helps you live longer or can cut your life short?