Saturday, October 06, 2007

Is Great Happiness Too Much of a Good Thing?

Americans report being generally happier than people from, say, Japan or Korea, but it turns out that, partly as a result, they are less likely to feel good when positive things happen and more likely to feel bad when negative things befall them.

Researchers had found that people need a certain ratio of positive to negative events to be happy -- couples, for example, seem to need about three times as many positive interactions with each other as negative interactions to feel satisfied with the relationship. A variety of therapists have focused on trying to increase the ratio of positive to negative events in their clients' lives.

But according to the new study, led by University of Virginia psychologist Shigehiro Oishi, people who report a large ratio of positive to negative events also seem to derive diminishing returns from additional happy events -- and ever larger adverse effects when they encounter negative events.

By contrast, Oishi found that even though Japanese people were less happy overall than Americans, they needed only one positive event to regain their equilibrium after experiencing a negative event. European Americans needed two positive events on average to regain their emotional footing.
via Washington Post

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