I have some good news and some bad news. But then, some more good news.

It's about a scientific study on happiness -- and the surprising thing that actually seems to make it harder for people to achieve true, holistic well-being and happiness.

It comes to us from a huge team of researchers around the globe, who studied 7,443 people in 40 countries to determine whether social pressure might actually achieve the counterproductive result of making individual people less likely to be happy.

For example, let's take Denmark, a country that consistently ranks as among the happiest on the planet. That distinction sparked a worldwide trend a few years ago, as people in other countries tried to figure out how to embrace the Danish concept of hygge, which has to do with "coziness," or "comfortable conviviality." 

"If only we could add more coziness to our lives, perhaps we would be as happy as the Danish," wrote study author Brock Bastian, a professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia. "But is living in one of the world's happiest nations all it's cracked up to be? What happens if you struggle to find or maintain happiness in a sea of (supposedly) happy people?"

Sure enough, Bastian and his colleagues found in their study, which was published in the journal, Scientific Reports, the more pressure there is for people to be happy, the less likely it will be that individual people will say that they actually are happy.

I've come across this paradox in my writing and research. For example, while writing my book on Harvard Business School and entrepreneurship, I was struck by the degree to which some students carefully studied how to live a happy and fulfilling life, along with studying things like entrepreneurship, business leadership, and finance.

But, the mere fact of putting so much emphasis on happiness prompted competition among students to see who would be the happiest and most fulfilled--and who would be at the very end of the line (in other words, failing at life).

That's basically what Bastian and his colleagues found, too:

"Worldwide, when people report feeling pressure to experience happiness and avoid sadness, they tend to experience deficits in mental health.

That is, they experience lower satisfaction with their lives, more negative emotion, less positive emotion and higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress."

The researchers also went a step further, connecting these levels of lower satisfaction and happiness specifically within countries that placed a higher value on happiness.

"In countries such as Denmark," Bastian wrote, "the social pressure some people felt to be happy was especially predictive of poor mental health," adding that "being surrounded by a sea of happy faces may aggravate the effects of already feeling socially pressured to be happy."

Now, I don't have the answer to this. But, it might be worth looking at a few other countries, and how they define happiness, to see whether there's any kind of lesson there.

A few years back, a British-born, Danish-bred author named Helen Russell set out to categorize how people in 29 countries perceive the very concept of happiness, in her book, The Atlas of Happiness.

For example, Russell says if you had to choose a Canadian characterization of happiness, it might be, "joie de vivre," or "joy of life."

"It doesn't matter how much snow is on the ground, how far they have to drive, or how packed their jazz festivals get," she writes. "Their particular brand of joie de vivre says, we're open to anything, anyone, and any weather--we'll try it all, and we'll make it good." 

Or else, consider Japan, where Russell says the national characterization of happiness is "wabi sabi" ("simplicity" and "the beauty of age and wear"). 

"They convey the idea that happiness is achieved by accepting--and celebrating--imperfection and transience," she writes

Or even Bhutan, a small, landlocked country of 750,000 people in the Himilayas, whose king came up with the concept of "Gross National Happiness" in 1972, and where the philosophy "guides the government and people," according to Russell, to the point that, "collective happiness and well-being is measured and prioritized ahead of financial gain."

One might think that the last example, where an entire country explicitly makes an effort to increase happiness, would be a prime example of the phenomenon Bastian and his coauthors wrote about.

Sure enough, the most recent time Bhutan was polled as part of the World Happiness Index in 2019, it came in 94th out of 156 countries.  

But I think perhaps that's the good news at the end, paradoxically.

If you live in a place that places a high value on happiness, you might be less likely yourself to be happy according to this research. But then, if everyone around you winds up feeling the same way, wouldn't that alleviate some of the pressure to be happy to begin with?

We're all in it together. And that, in turn, might make you very happy.