Happiness is not trying too hard to be happy
London - Those who feel fortunate and relatively wealthy are more likely to be employed and less likely to commit crimes, according to a study.
It also found those who believe they are well-off are less likely to be depressed and anxious than those who actually are rich.
A team including researchers from King’s College London and the University of California, Irvine, asked more than 2 200 twins aged 18 to rate their position on a ladder from the richest to the poorest.
Even twins growing up in the same homes in the UK showed that if one felt more fortunate, they were likely to do better in life.
They also had lower levels of depression, anxiety and troubling behaviour, were more likely to be optimistic and employed, and less likely to have committed a crime.
Meanwhile, another study found trying too hard to be happy can leave you more depressed. This might be because those who aim to be happy try to ignore negative feelings – a normal part of life – and fail to deal with them properly, the researchers said.
The study of 450 also found aiming for exciting big moments can make people miss the small, pleasant ones such as a walk or a hug.
One group of 151 students were asked questions to gauge how much they wanted to be happy and how depressed they were. There was a link between the two, particularly for those who said they ignored bad feelings or were dominated by their emotions.
A separate survey of 299 found the more people focused on happiness, the more depressed they were. They also struggled to enjoy being in the moment or recall joyful memories.
Dr Julia Vogt, a psychologist from Reading University, who led the research, said: "People who value happiness too much expect to be happy all the time when negative feelings are simply part of life and probably happiness would not mean anything if we were happy all the time.
"We found that people like this tend to pay too much attention to emotions and find it harder to look forward to things. So trying to be happy doesn’t seem to work."
The study, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, asked all those involved how strongly they agreed with a list of statements including "Feeling happy is extremely important to me".
They were then given statements to judge if they had symptoms of depression. It emerged that those most fixated on happiness were at greatest risk of depression and the researchers wanted to know why.
To do this, they gave the first group of 151 a set of statements to see if they focused on their emotions too much. This was the case for those who were most interested in happiness and most at risk of depression.
For the other group of 299, researchers asked questions such as whether they could make the most of a good time. Those most interested in happiness were least able to do this.Daily Mail