The promotion of happiness – does it make us sad?

Western culture places an extraordinary emphasis on happiness – and continuous happiness – as the goal each of us should strive for in our lives. But we’re increasingly realising this goal may actually be making us unhappy.

Television advertising shows people becoming happier with every new acquisition, alongside national campaigns promoting a take-no-prisoner’s approach to encouraging happiness. Barbara Ehrenreich captures this fixation well in her recent book simply titled “Smile or Die”.

Of course, feeling happy is a good thing. But happiness is only one aspect of the full range of human emotions. People also regularly feel gloomy, anxious and stressed. Despite the commonality of these negative emotional states, they are generally regarded in a quite a different light to happiness. Read more


Brock Bastian is a Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Psychology at University of Queensland.

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