1.29.2008

Too Much of a Good Thing?

This is a really funny snippet from a Slate column:

"A study suggests extreme happiness may be bad for you. Findings: 1) "The highest levels of income, education and political participation were reported not by the most satisfied individuals, but by moderately satisfied individuals." 2) Extremely happy people "earned significantly less money" and earned lower school grades than moderately happy people. 3) They "may not live as long," either. Theories: 1) Happiness makes you complacent and kills your drive. 2) It makes you slow to adapt. 3) It makes you too optimistic and insufficiently vigilant about your health. 4) It may overstimulate your cardiovascular system. Researchers' conclusions: 1) "Happiness may need to be moderated for success." 2) "Extremely high levels of happiness might not be a desirable goal." Human Nature's conclusions: 1) Success may need to be moderated for happiness. 2) Extremely high levels of success might not be a desirable goal."

I love the "conclusions." William Saletan has a great sense of humor. :D
Go to the site for the links to the actual study and other news bits...

13 comments:

Janiece Murphy said...

Anne, I guess I'm doomed for an early death...

Oh, well.

Jeri said...

As a chronically depressed (but effectively-medicated) person, hopefully I'll hit median or better on lifespan. LOL

That's a pretty hilarious tongue in cheek inverse analysis.

el padre said...

Now I know why I am always depressed over my happiness! I keep waiting for the bottom to fall out of my happiness. I should realize when my happiness has turned into a bottomless pit of joyfulness and that being the case, I am doomed to be a mediocre success.
But as they say: if only one's attempts at mediocrity were more fulfilling one could then declare it a happy success. This is depressing!!! But I'm happy you are happy about my success. I am too.

Tom said...

When I was successful, drugs and alsohol were my constant companions.

Now I'm happy, sober, and have just enough success to get by.

Wouldn't have it any other way!

Michelle K said...

I started to comment earlier, then deleted what I was going to say. However now that others have brought up depression...

I think that I actually *enjoy* life more due to my depression. I know what it's like to be down, so when I'm not down, I truly appreciate it.

Of course this wasn't true with some of the earlier classes of anti-depressants. They just made me numb. But with my current meds, I can fully appreciate things that make me happy. Which is why I think I tend to laugh so much--if I'm going to enjoy something, then I'm really going to enjoy it.

Besides it feels good to laugh.

Does this make me a happy person? Beats me. It would be kinda strange to call someone with a history of depression "happy" but I prefer it to the alternative.

Anne C. said...

I think about the relationship of happiness to success sometimes when I think of the paths I might have taken. I was accepted into a prestigious school, but was unable to go because of finances. I ended up going to a state school, got a decent education, and am making a decent living doing something I enjoy most of the time. What if I had gone to that prestigious school? Without a doubt, I would have been pressured to be more "successful." I doubt very much that it would have made me happier. I consider myself lucky that I did not go down that path. :)

Michelle, I think it's really interesting your correlation between knowing the lows and appreciating the highs. It's a fascinating way to find the positive in something that most people perceive as a negative. Bravo! (and you're right, it feels great to laugh!)
In the long run, it comes down to self-definition. I think it's much more important, and tells more about the person themselves, to listen to how they define themselves. There are usually side points that they don't see or recognize, but the core definition is the telling point.

MWT said...

Yep. Success is stressful. Especially if everyone around you is chock full of expectations for how far you're going. Then they get all mad if you decide not to go there after all, and they get all huffy about "wasting talents."

I'm glad to hear that not all antidepressants cause numbness, however. I have a friend who could really use medicating (I've shown her the Dooce essay that Jeri highlighted a while back), but she thinks her current state is better than the numbness and won't go back to it.

Stacey and JR said...

If you measure success against other people or let other people define it, then yes, happiness is no attainable. If you measure success against your on yardstick then happiness is thoroughly attainable. I consider myself successful - good marriage, an adult child who mostly makes good decisions, a great support group of friends, a job I don't mind going to (ok scratch that as of yesterday) and consider myself happy with what I've attained. However, I won't stand for mediocrity - that makes me depressed and sad.

Michelle K said...

mwt,

I've been on a variety of anti-depressants in my life, and I have to say the new SSRIs are very good. Much preferable to the ones I was on when I was 19

I'm currently on generic Celexa, which works extremely well for me. As you may have noticed, I can still laugh and enjoy myself, but I also have the ability to feel grief. So it doesn't mask the feelings, as much as it makes them controllable.

It's also helped my OCD to a degree, which was an added bonus.

Serezone was also good IIRC. Wellbutrin is a slightly different class, but bombed for me because it caused my anxiety to skyrocket. But may people tolerate it well, and prefer it because has a slightly different biological mechanism, and so has a different set of side effects.

That's not to say I think that anti-depressants are a universal panacea. They aren't. But when you suffer from biological depression, they work well.

It's akin to have diabetes or high blood pressure. You take those medicines to fix a biological problem so you can live a normal life, and the same goes for anti-depressants and other such classes of medications.

Sorry if that went on too long.

Anne C. said...

You don't need to apologize, Michelle. Lengthy comments are as welcome as short ones.

So speaks the hostess. :)

Michelle K said...

(bows to the hostess)

(gives chocolate to hostess)

Jeri said...

Michelle - thanks for sharing your experience with anti-ds. I agree - the proper med & dosage doesn't numb you but instead frees you so that you can function.

Anne C. said...

(gives chocolate to hostess)
Michelle, you are *always* welcome here! ;)