Are you afraid to be happy?

Millions of us fear that embracing feelings of happiness will cause something disastrous to happen later down the line. Photo / Thinkstock
Millions of us fear that embracing feelings of happiness will cause something disastrous to happen later down the line. Photo / Thinkstock

Ever felt you can't enjoy being happy in case you tempt fate? If so, you're not alone.

Millions of people actively avoid feeling happy because they think it will cause something disastrous to happen to them, research has revealed.

New Zealand psychologists have found that we shy away from enjoying the moment because we fear it leads to unhappiness and other unfortunate consequences.

Others - both in Western and Eastern cultures - avoid happiness because they are convinced it makes them a worse person and others may see them as selfish, boring or shallow.

People in non-Western cultures, such as Iran and neighbouring countries, worry that their peers, an 'evil eye' or some other supernatural deity may resent their happiness and they will eventually suffer any number of severe consequences, the study found.

In America, however, it is almost taken for granted happiness is one of the most important values guiding people's lives.

Western cultures are more driven by an urge to maximize happiness and minimise sadness.

Psychologists Dr Mohsen Joshanloo and Dr Dan Weijers said: "Many individuals and cultures do tend to be averse to some forms of happiness, especially when taken to the extreme, for many different reasons.

"Some of the beliefs about the negative consequences of happiness seem to be exaggerations, often spurred by superstition or timeless advice on how to enjoy a pleasant or prosperous life."

The researchers, from the Victoria University of Wellington, said being pleased with your lot is more likely to be the ultimate goal of Westerners, rather than people from other cultures.

The analysis, published in Springer's Journal of Happiness Studies, reviews why we avoid being happy and why various communities react differently to feelings of well being.

Dr Joshanloo and Dr Weijers add it is 'a cultural phenomena' that for some individuals happiness is not a supreme value.

The researchers believe being raised in a culture that does not value happiness could encourage a person to back away from it. And while avoiding it exists in both Western and non Western cultures, it is more valued in the West.

Failing to appear happy is often a cause for concern. Its value is echoed through Western positive psychology and research on subjective well being.

But in non Western cultures it is less valued. The ideals of harmony and conformity are often at odds with the pursuit of personal happiness and the endorsement of individualistic values.

For instance, studies have shown East Asians are more inclined than Westerners to believe it is inappropriate to express happiness in many social situations. Similarly, Japanese are less inclined to savour positive emotions than Americans.

- DailyMail

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