The researchers’ main findings showed that a person’s perception of time scarcity is influenced by their pursuit of (often unattainable) happiness. The feeling that time was scarce lessened for participants who maintained that they had attained their goal of being happy to some degree.
“Time seems to vanish amid the pursuit of happiness, but only when seen as a goal requiring continued pursuit,” explain the researchers. “This finding adds depth to the growing body of work suggesting that the pursuit of happiness can ironically undermine well-being.” According to the researchers, the findings imply that while happiness can impair positive emotions, it need not necessarily do so. Instead, if someone believes they have achieved happiness, they are left with the time to appreciate this, for instance by keeping a gratitude journal. The research further underscores that people have different concepts about happiness, which in turn may well influence how they perceive the time they have to achieve happiness.