According to positive psychology, or the science of subject well-being, environment plays an important role in people's quest for happiness. Feeling safe and comfortable generates contentment and satisfaction. Conversely, an excessively stressful environment promotes anxiety and insecurity. For instance, a study comparing controllable and uncontrollable stress found that the latter caused greater unhappiness and tension [source: Breier et al.]. While stress compels us to work more efficiently and achieve greater goals, too much of it can adversely affect long-term happiness.
One recent example of the stress effect is the paradoxical shift in happiness among American women in the past 35 years. Despite the progress women have made in recent decades, their rates of subjective well-being have declined overall [source: Stevenson and Wolfers]. Researchers have attributed this to the rising stress levels women must manage while juggling a family and career. A separate comparison of how people spend their time concluded that men may be happier today because they spend less time on unpleasant tasks than women [source: Leonhardt].
While we can't entirely eliminate stress from our lives, some tenets of positive psychology can help alleviate it. Specifically, positive thinking, mindfulness and optimism serve as emotional stress antidotes. When stress strikes, fight the urge to park in front of the television and try out relaxation techniques instead.