Can Too Much Happiness Harm You?

Can Too Much Happiness Harm You?

The written content of the post was authored by best-selling author and neuroscience expert, Mark Robert Waldman. It is posted with his permission.

We should all cultivate happiness, but there are drawbacks to excessive happiness.

When we expect and experience happiness, dopamine releases. Dopamine is the neurochemical that gives us an instantaneous boost of pleasure and euphoria. But if too much dopamine releases you risk losing control over your emotions. This can lead to making brash decisions that could interfere with relationships and work. 

For example, overly happy people tend to be over impulsive, especially when it comes to spending money. [i]  Too much happiness mimics addictive behavior causing you to neurologically “overdose” on pleasure. [ii]

Happiness is needed for health so by all means seek it - but keep in mind that the pursuit of happiness as a goal can lead to feelings of loneliness and misery.[iii] As psychologists at the University of Denver discovered, the more highly you value happiness, the less happy and more depressed you may feel.[iv] 

The solution: seek activities that bring you deep meaning and purpose.
That’s the best form of happiness in the world.


[i] Negative and positive urgency may both be risk factors for compulsive buying. Rose P, Segrist DJ. J Behav Addict. 2014 Jun;3(2):128-32.

[ii] The neurobiology of pleasure, reward processes, addiction and their health implications. Esch T, Stefano GB. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2004 Aug;25(4):235-51.

[iii] The pursuit of happiness can be lonely. Mauss IB, Savino NS, Anderson CL, Weisbuch M, Tamir M, Laudenslager ML. Emotion. 2012 Oct;12(5):908-12.

[iv] Can seeking happiness make people unhappy? Paradoxical effects of valuing happiness. Mauss IB, Tamir M, Anderson CL, Savino NS. Emotion. 2011 Aug;11(4):807-15.

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