June Gruber in Greater Good:
Clearly, happiness is popular. But is happiness always good? Can feeling too good ever be bad? Researchers are just starting to seriously explore these questions, with good reason: By recognizing the potential pitfalls of happiness, we enable ourselves to understand it more deeply and we learn to better promote healthier and more balanced lives. Along with my colleagues Iris Mauss and Maya Tamir, I have reviewed the emerging scientific research on the dark side of happiness, and we have conducted our own research on the topic. These studies have revealed four ways that happiness might be bad for us.
1. Too much happiness can make you less creative—and less safe.
Happiness, it turns out, has a cost when experienced too intensely. For instance, we often are told that happiness can open up our minds to foster more creative thinking and help us tackle problems or puzzles. This is the case when we experience moderate levels of happiness. But according to Mark Alan Davis’s 2008 meta-analysis of the relationship between mood and creativity, when people experience intense and perhaps overwhelming amounts of happiness, they no longer experience the same creativity boost. And in extreme cases like mania, people lose the ability to tap into and channel their inner creative resources. What’s more, psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has found that too much positive emotion—and too little negative emotion—makes people inflexible in the face of new challenges.