“Why are happy people annoying?” asks Vishen, founder of Mindvalley, to actor Josh Peck in an interview on The Mindvalley Show. It’s the question that inspired our curiosity.
We’ve all known at least one person. Their state of constant sunshine may not reach the extremes of The Simpsons’ Ned Flanders or 30 Rock’s Kenneth Parcell, but they sure do rub us the wrong way.
The answer, it seems, lies with the value we put on our own happiness rather than that of the other person.
Why We Value Happiness
Let’s get one thing straight: happiness matters.
Not only does it make you feel good, but research shows that happiness is great for our mind, body, soul, relationships, work, and performance. Plus, there’s a whole other level of energy when it comes to happy people. It’s all about the good vibes, right?
So, before we dive into why we get so triggered by all the Perky McPerkisons, it’s important to understand why happiness is of importance to us.
What does “being happy” mean?
Humans, since the dawn of time, have been in the pursuit of happiness. The annual United Nations Happiness Report is proof of how we’re doing as a society (Finland holds the #1 spot for 2022, for your information).
But do we know or understand what “being happy” truly means?
Its interpretation really depends on who you ask. But in essence, “happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence,” as per Aristotle, the Greek philosopher.
Happiness, it seems, is our very nature. Our brains release seven neurochemicals when we experience moments of positive emotions, particularly during these five elements of well-being:
- Spiritual: a sense of meaning and purpose in life
- Physical: having good health and enough energy to maintain a quality of life
- Intellectual: being a lifelong learner
- Relational: the connection with other people
- Emotional: dealing with painful emotions and cultivating pleasurable emotions
What makes people happy is when they have present benefits as well as future ones, according to positive psychology expert Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar in an episode of The Mindvalley Show. For example, if someone is in a relationship where they enjoy spending time with their partner and building a life together, then that present pleasure plus future contentment equals happiness.
So think of a time when you were in pure bliss—maybe it was when you bought your dream car, the day your child was born, or when you surrounded yourself with people who made you happy. These are reasons why happiness is so important.
The benefits of being happy
It’s not only about feeling good; happiness makes us healthier and more productive. And here are three (of many) studies to show for it:
- Research from the University of Warwick shows that the happier a person is, the harder they work. They found that this feeling of contentment made people about 12% more productive. The driving force? Happy people use their time more effectively, increasing their work pace without sacrificing its quality.
- One study by the University of Illinois examined the correlation between happiness and longevity. It found “‘clear and compelling evidence’ that—all else being equal—happy people tend to live longer and experience better health than their unhappy peers.”
- An extensive study in the British Medical Journal followed people for over 20 years to examine the spread of happiness. The results showed the feel-good, do-good phenomenon, where the happy subjects spread their good vibes across “three degrees of separation.”
So there you have it, with scientific evidence: happiness does matter.
What Makes Happy People “Annoying”?
If happiness is so great, then why do we feel annoyed with extreme happiness?
It seems that it’s how we perceive the emotional state rather than how the other person expresses it. Here are three points that explain why:
1. Happy people are deemed as naive
Remember Buddy from the movie Elf with his chirpy, sticks-and-stones attitude? While there are cute moments throughout the movie, you’ve got to admit that overall, he is an annoyingly happy person.
And it seems that there’s a downside to being Buddy-like. A 2016 study examined how super-happy folks are perceived within social norms over a series of six experiments.
“One of the most robust findings in our research is that people see very happy individuals as naive,” explains researcher Maurice Schweitzer in an interview with Knowledge at Wharton. “We found that people are more likely to exploit those individuals.”
Here’s what else they found:
- The assumption is that those who are very happy people must be ignorant.
- It’s also assumed that very happy people shelter themselves from negative information, like the news.
- And finally, there’s the assumption that very happy people don’t think carefully or investigate what’s around them, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation or distributive negotiations.
But unlike Buddy whose ignorance is bliss, for happy people, it’s as the study’s title suggests—bliss is ignorance.
2. Happy people are reminders of our own inner misery
Josh’s book, Happy People Are Annoying, is a candid memoir full of life lessons. One of those lessons? What happiness means to him.
In his interview with Vishen, Josh explains he believed this emotional state was a thing relegated to folks who received “some secret gold ticket into this world of happiness”—those who’re naturally born attractive, great at sports, generationally wealthy, and so on.
And social media, which is part of our everyday lives now, is also no help. It brings out this negative perception of other people’s display of happiness.
According to a 2020 study, the way people use social media can greatly affect their happiness. The participants reported that the more they compared themselves to others, the more of a hit their self-esteem experienced.
So this might be a tough pill to swallow, but there’s a high chance that we find happy folks annoying because of the green-eyed monster called jealousy. At the sight of others’ good fortune (in this case, happiness), this feeling of annoyance is stirred by “those who have what we ought to have,” as per Greek philosopher Aristotle.
3. “Happy” is completely subjective
For some of us, it’s like nails on a chalkboard when we meet a real-life Buddy the Elf. But what makes their chirpiness so irritable?
“It’s just because it’s natural,” Josh says in the podcast interview. “Anyone who’s naturally good at anything is ‘annoying.’” And though he’s being cheeky about it, there’s some truth in what he’s saying.
The same 2016 study found that people don’t automatically or undeniably hate that really happy person. Instead, they just assume that the person is just not being realistic.
“What’s interesting is that when we showed people really happy people and told them that they actually do go out and search information—they are consumers of the news and world around them—it muted that effect,” says Maurice.
Moreover, Maurice and his team found that if the person is someone you know, your judgment of them wouldn’t be based on superficial cues, and you’d be less likely to think of them as annoying.
One person’s “happy” might be another person’s annoying. So really, it’s all related to our own point of view.
The Goal Is “Annoying”
“The truth is that there are times in which I am one of those ‘annoying’ people,” says Josh. “The goal is [to be] ‘annoying.’”
He’s joking, of course. But remember, the level of “annoying” that happy people are is purely based on your perception.
The Ned Flanders of the world aren’t ignorant; they’re actually well-informed. They’ve just found a way to go from feeling happiness to being fundamentally happy people.
You, too, can find ways to be happier. And if you need a bit of help to do so, then Mindvalley’s got you.
As a member, you have full access to all sorts of transformational programs, like the Mystic Brain with Dawson Church which helps you live in perpetual bliss and peace. Additionally, you can catch live interviews like the one with Josh Peck and Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar.
And the best part? You’ll be part of the Mindvalley tribe full of individuals looking to level up just like you.
As the saying goes, “Whatever makes your soul happy, do that.” And if being a happy person makes you happy…well, do that.
Images generated on Midjourney.