The authors propose that how people want to feel ("ideal affect") differs from how they actually feel ("actual affect") and that cultural factors influence ideal more than actual affect. In 2 studies, controlling for actual affect, the authors found that European American (EA) and Asian American (AA) individuals value high-arousal positive affect (e.g., excitement) more than do Hong Kong Chinese (CH). On the other hand, CH and AA individuals value low-arousal positive affect (e.g., calm) more than do EA individuals. For all groups, the discrepancy between ideal and actual affect correlates with depression. These findings illustrate the distinctiveness of ideal and actual affect, show that culture influences ideal affect more than actual affect, and indicate that both play a role in mental health. Copyright 2006 APA, all rights reserved.