We all want to be happier than we are. And from time to time, I imagine all of us have said something such as "I am going to try and be happier" to ourselves, or for those of us who are a bit more cynical "I am not going to be as miserable." But does pursuing happiness, making it a goal, actually impact our happiness?
A recent series of studies by Iris Mauss (psychologist, University of of Denver) and colleagues suggests that in certain cases, it can actually make people less happy, and interestingly, that this is especially the case when things are going pretty well.
In Study 1, participants were recruited from the community (laundromats, etc) and were asked a variety of questions about their stress levels and their happiness. When stress levels were moderate, the more people valued happiness, the less happy they actually were. This was not the case for people who had a lower value placed on their happiness. This also was not the case when stress levels were high.
In sum, when things weren't so bad (low stress levels), valuing happiness was related to less happiness. If things were really bad, valuing happiness did not matter.