The Case for Sadness

The other day, I saw in the gallup poll that only 32.3% of Americans consider themselves to be engaged in their work.  Shortly thereafter, someone of Facebook posted that about a third of Americans consider themselves very happy.  Given how happiness-conscious our culture is, I wondered if those two statistics might be related.  And the answer is a definite maybe.  Because research has shown that too much happiness can be bad for you.

I guess if you stop to think about it, the findings make sense.  Our emotions make us change our behavior.  So, for example, if you are not satisfied with your career (if you’re unhappy with where you are), you are likely to make a change: be it switching fields or promoting.  On the other hand, if you are perfectly happy where you are, you are not likely to move at all—and that may, in the end, make you unhappy.

Sadness, on the other hand, can actually be good for you.  It can increase your motivation, improve your memory, make you a better judge of people and situations and can even improve your social interactions.  In other words, sadness can (in the long run) make you happy.

What’s more, what people often consider to be sadness is often just people being introverted as Susan Cain explains in her Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.  Introverts are people who gain energy from being alone; s extroverts are people who gain energy from being with other people.  In a fundamentally extroverted culture people who need alone-time, are often called depressed or sad or shy.  We’re none of the above; we just need time to recharge.

So next time you see some advertisement for a retreat that’s guaranteed to make you happy, as yourself do you really need it?  Or do you just need a vacation?  Say, someplace like here:



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