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State 'happiness' campaigns leave people feeling gloomier, research suggests


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State 'happiness' campaigns leave people feeling gloomier, research suggests

 

National happiness campaigns such as that adopted by the Government at a cost of millions of pounds are likely to make people unhappier, according to new research.

 

By Telegraph reporters

11:46AM BST 11 Sep 2012

 

The global financial crisis has sparked a wave of debate about whether economic growth or inner well-being should be the top priority for ministers.

 

David Cameron introduced a new "happiness index" for the UK as an alternative to GDP and the first results, published in July, showed the average adult rated 7.4 out of ten for life satisfaction. But critics have condemned the £2m-a-year cost of the well-being survey, which will be sent to 200,000 households per year until 2015 and was designed with help from Lord Layard, the economist.

 

New findings by a team of psychologists led by Dr Brock Bastian at the University of Queensland in Australia suggest that a constant emphasis on looking for positive emotions tends to make people more miserable. "There is plenty of work showing that pursuing happiness as a goal is counter-productive because when we fail to achieve our goals we feel disappointed and this serves to push the goal further away," said Dr Bastian. "In short, when people perceive that others think they should feel happy, and not sad, this leads them to feel sad more frequently and intensely. Government campaigns focusing on happiness need to acknowledge that true happiness is actually found in a mixture of positive and negative emotion."

Dr Bastian and colleagues carried out a series of studies designed to test the idea that high social expectations of happiness have a negative impact on people's emotional states....People who believed strongly that society expects us to be happy reported experiencing negative emotions more frequently and more intensely. In both sets of students feeling greater pressure to be happy was linked to "reduced satisfaction with life and increased depression". The effect was smaller amongst Japanese students because "emotional balance and hardship" are more highly valued in Japan, according to the authors, whose findings are published in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion.

 

A further study involved Australian students being asked to read newspaper articles before writing about a time they experienced strong negative emotions. Those who read an article reporting that sadness is infectious and sad people are disliked felt an increased level of negative emotion after their writing task. But people who read an article reporting that sadness is not infectious and sad people are accepted experienced far less negative emotion after the writing exercise. Dr Bastian said "experiencing negative emotions is a fundamental aspect of human nature" and warned that social pressure to always appear happy can "ironically aggravate those same emotions that are deemed to be socially undesirable or unacceptable."

 

Phillip Hodson, a fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, said the research highlighted the important truth that "although you cannot just talk people out of depression you can instantly make them feel worse by criticising their despair." He said it is possible to teach "the skills of happiness" but added: "Happiness requires contrasts - it doesn't exist except as a comparison. So in order to be joyful you must sometimes be sad."

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9535365/State-happiness-campaigns-leave-people-feeling-gloomier-research-suggests.html

Edited by Altostrata
edited to conform to fair use

 

 

I came off Seroxat in August 2005 after a 4 month taper. I was initially prescibed a benzo for several months and then Prozac for 5 years and after that, Seroxat for 3 years and 9 months.

 

"It's like in the great stories Mr.Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer."  Samwise Gamgee, Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers

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Related reading: Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich.

 

Amazon description --

"A sharp-witted knockdown of America’s love affair with positive thinking and an urgent call for a new commitment to realism

 

Americans are a “positive” people—cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat: this is our reputation as well as our self-image. But more than a temperament, being positive, we are told, is the key to success and prosperity.

 

In this utterly original take on the American frame of mind, Barbara Ehrenreich traces the strange career of our sunny outlook from its origins as a marginal nineteenth-century healing technique to its enshrinement as a dominant, almost mandatory, cultural attitude. Evangelical mega-churches preach the good news that you only have to want something to get it, because God wants to “prosper” you. The medical profession prescribes positive thinking for its presumed health benefits. Academia has made room for new departments of “positive psychology” and the “science of happiness.”... Ehrenreich exposes the downside of America’s penchant for positive thinking: On a personal level, it leads to self-blame and a morbid preoccupation with stamping out “negative” thoughts."

 

A good and enlightening read.

 

Sparrow

2009-2011: tapered off Trazodone, Namenda, Lamictal, Dextroamphetamine, Zyprexa; cold-turkeyed Pristiq; reduced Lexapro dose 50%.
On clonazepam since 2004, 0.5 - 1.0 mg daily PRN. Three failed (too rapid) partial tapers, 2010 - 2011.
Dec. 2011 - March 2013: Tapered off 0.5 mg clonazepam (Klonopin)

August 2013: Switched to liquid escitalopram (Lexapro) and began tapering from 10 mg.

January 2014: 4.5 mg escitalopram

March 2014: One year off benzos

May 2014: 3.0 mg escitalopram

June 2014: severe depression, updosed to 4.0 mg

Sept 1, 2014: 2.7 mg

Dec 7, 2014: Can't get below 2.5 mg without unbearable symptoms. Doing an extended hold (I hope)

March 2015: TWO YEARS POST-BENZO

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BUMP!

 

Inspirational, positive thinking messages make me absolutely miserable.

Pristiq tapered over 8 months ending Spring 2011 after 18 years of polydrugging that began w/Zoloft for fatigue/general malaise (not mood). CURRENT: 1mg Klonopin qhs (SSRI bruxism), 75mg trazodone qhs, various hormonesLitigation for 11 years for Work-related injury, settled 2004. Involuntary medical retirement in 2001 (age 39). 2012 - brain MRI showing diffuse, chronic cerebrovascular damage/demyelination possibly vasculitis/cerebritis. Dx w/autoimmune polyendocrine failure.<p>2013 - Dx w/CNS Sjogren's Lupus (FANA antibodies first appeared in 1997 but missed by doc).

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Hi Sparrow,

 

I have read some of it, great book. Very refreshing.

 

I think that certain forms (not all) of self-help can be quite damaging, especially when they lead to self-blame.

 

 

I came off Seroxat in August 2005 after a 4 month taper. I was initially prescibed a benzo for several months and then Prozac for 5 years and after that, Seroxat for 3 years and 9 months.

 

"It's like in the great stories Mr.Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer."  Samwise Gamgee, Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers

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