Being happy may have worked out well for Bobby McFerrin, but that doesn’t mean you should walk around with a “fake it until you make it” mentality.

In life, there are definitely things that we overindulge on that we probably shouldn’t, such as alcohol consumption, working out, social media, Netflix and of course eating raw cookie dough – but what about happiness?

Is it possible to overindulge on being happy?

The short answer is yes.

According to one recent article, too much cheerfulness can actually make you selfish, gullible and potentially less successful. I don’t know about you, but my smile just shrunk a bit. The article clearly compares happiness to food which really makes sense:

Although necessary and beneficial, too much food can cause problems; likewise, happiness can lead to bad outcomes. “Research indicates that very high levels of positive feelings predict risk-taking behaviors, excess alcohol and drug consumption, binge eating, and may lead us to neglect threats.”

We can all thank Shakespeare for coining this now popular phrase “too much of a good thing” from his 15th century play “As You Like It”, but regardless of the century – we find ourselves at the crossroads of a world that’s designed around abundance…including cookie dough.

For help pushing yourself through stagnation:

We live in a 24/7/365 supersized world that forces us to overindulge on everything from technology to food. It’s hard to escape, but not impossible. Studies have shown that too many choices drive us to feel worse and that people who “maximize”—trying to make the best possible choice from a wide range of options—experience greater depression, perfectionism and self-doubt.

What about at work, could too much “happy” in the workplace be a bad thing?

I recently finished the incredible book The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self–Not Just Your “Good” Self–Drives Success and Fulfillment where it states that happiness can indeed hurt your performance. It’s true that a positive culture and work environment boost happiness (ie: Google, Facebook, and Linkedin to name a few), however, there is a downside to all the perks. Studies have shown:

Happy people care less about details, which makes them less persuasive and prone to errors.
Happy people are more likely to recall false facts because they are focused on the bigger picture which lacks important details.

Joyful people might be greater managers, where they are accountable for executing a company strategy, whereas a less happy person could make a great head of quality management, where details are the most critical component.

If you think you’ll just “fake it until you make it” in the workplace, then you would be wrong.

According to the founder of the Emotion Machine, the “emotional labor”, it takes to pretend to be in a good mood can actually be very taxing on your physical and mental well-being, and thereby backfire on our overall happiness. The research reiterates what we previously discussed:

Another meta-analysis of over 3 decades of research found that faking positive feelings at work was associated with lower employee satisfaction and increased job burnout.

A third study published in Anxiety, Stress, and Coping found that volunteers at a call center who were told to “hide negative emotions” had greater increases in blood pressure and heart rate than those told to show their true feelings.

A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology has found that hiding the “real you” at work can hurt motivation and productivity.
It’s not all doom and gloom.

There are a few ways both employees and employers can help balance the happy quotient.

Companies should aspire to create environments that support cultures where employee’s feel they can express themselves freely while being responsible and productive. This opportunity allows for that emotional release (both good and bad) to be aired out and addressed in real time. In the end, if you (the employee) isn’t happy at your current company or in your current role, then consider looking for something else.

Final thoughts: Grant yourself permission to feel less than positive from time to time. Embrace the negative emotions you have as they are critical to balancing the positive ones. Being ridiculously happy all the time is both unrealistic and rarely sustainable. You aren’t going to be Matthieu Ricard, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

With Leadership,

Joshua Miller

Joshua Miller is a creative leader and impactful executive coach.

His career spans both the advertising world and the world of leadership. In advertising, he was the creative lead, responsible for the campaign strategy for Fortune 100 brands. Today, he is an innovator. He’s supporting the executive development and change management for many of the same companies.

Joshua studied at Syracuse University, NYU and Stanford. He combines that background with his deep knowledge of organizational behavior, performance and change management. He focuses on the analysis, design, development, delivery, and evaluation of scalable and global talent development solutions programs.

Joshua is a Master Certified Coach. He trained with the International Coaching Federation and CTI (The Coaches Training Institute).