Happy Is Lonely

In far mode we should feel more distant from folks around us. So since happy is far, happy folks should feel more lonely. And they do:

The more people value happiness, the lonelier they feel on a daily basis (assessed over 2 weeks with diaries). … An experimental manipulation of valuing happiness … demonstrates that inducing people to value happiness leads to relatively greater loneliness, as measured by self-reports and a hormonal index (progesterone). In each study, key potential confounds, such as positive and negative affect, were ruled out. (more)

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  • Ely

    Can you add a link for the quotation? (Probably just a typo in the html for the original post or something.) Thanks!

  • Dorikka

    Being happy is not the same as valuing happiness. The quote discussed only the latter, and the former does not necessarily fall from the latter.

    • Seconded, that should have been very obvious. It’s even a common truism that you achieve happiness by not directly seeking it.

      • Thursday

        Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in for free. Aim at earth and you will get neither.

        – C.S. Lewis

  • I am sometimes most happy when I am alone, but I often feel most lonely and thus unhappy when I am among people: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/loneliness-doesnt-kill-people-do/

  • nazgulnarsil

    it would force us to confront that the average adult has the same reasoning ability as a 5th grader in a non-silly context like “are you smarter than a 5th grader”.

  • nazgulnarsil

    oops, that was a reply to why not let kids vote.

  • Thursday

    Haven’t read the paper, but my quick take is this:

    1. People who value happiness tend to be utilitarians or have utilitarian tendencies.
    2. Utilitarians tend to be less groupish.
    3. Less groupish people tend to be alone more.

    Note that the excerpts talk about valuing happiness, not being happy.

    Jon Haidt’s work shows links between an emphasis on harm in morality as being linked to individualism, while links to authority, loyalty and purity tend to be linked to groupishness.

    My quick take w/o looking at full paper.

  • richard silliker

    Lonely? Of course, How do you share your happiness with anyone. Some may say they are happy for you. However, they will never have your personal experience that made you happy.

  • Can someone tell me what this means: Progesterone concentration in saliva was determined with duplicate samples using an enzyme immunoassay (EIA) kit (No. 1-1502 Salimetrics, LLC) that detects levels in the range of 5 – 2430 pg/ml with a sensitivity of 5 pg/ml?

    Aha! Didn’t think so. If I only understood this one part, it’d tie in the whole study and all would be clear. And then I would be happy once again;-)

  • All they showed was that wanting to be happy produced more loneliness than the control condition.

    The condition they used for control condition was wanting to have “accurate judgment”.

    Accurate judgment is something that individuals can produce by themselves. Happiness us usually contingent on other individuals.

    The film that was used to elicit the feelings and hormonal changes was this.


    The film clip they were shown didn’t include scenes that disclosed that they became lovers. But it was a popular movie based on a best selling novel so the participants may have seen it, or seen scenes from it and may have been aware that they became lovers. Streep and Eastwood have a 4 day affair, and almost runaway together, but don’t because of Streep’s concern over her husband and children.

    If Streep had wanted to be happy, she would have gone off with Eastwood, instead she used “accurate judgment” to stay where she was to do right by her husband and children. Had she run off with Eastwood, she would have left her children and husband.

    I think what this research shows is that accurate judgment is more important in being not lonely than single mindedly wanting to be happy. The problem is that trying to instill accurate judgment in people is counter to marketing efforts.

    Accurate judgment isn’t going to get people to buy crap that they don’t need and which won’t help them in their lives, or vote against their own economic interests.

  • “Happiness is lonely” is actually the reason I created http://www.DailyHap.com, a website that encourages the pursuit of happiness within a community of happy people, because happiness IS sometimes lonely. Particularly the pursuit of happiness, which is so hard to quantify and thus harder to feel like you’ve achieved.

  • Gulliver

    @ Robin Hanson

    In your Is Happy Far? post you concluded:

    So it seems being happy makes you think far, and thinking far makes you happy, and better able to see what makes you happy. This conflicts with blue’s concept associations with unhappiness, and weakens support for blue-is-far. Color me confused.

    Loneliness, being the condition of being alone and wanting otherwise, is inherently vastly less subjective than happiness. Put another way, loneliness is the same for anyone who is lonely, but happiness is different for many different people. For some it may be far whereas for others is may be near and for others still it may be both depending on what kind of happiness they’re measuring. Whether a person considers themselves happy will necessarily depend on what they mean by happiness.

    The upshot being that you must define happiness more narrowly before you can validly asset that happy is lonely, or before you can resolve the paradox you pointed to in Is Happy Far?.