Why constantly searching for happiness won’t make you happy
Do you know someone who is constantly searching for happiness? I do.
They are constantly on the lookout for something, anything, anyone that will make them happy.
They try this hack and that hack, but in all this trying and searching and looking for happiness everywhere they go, they find that they usually aren’t as happy as they thought they would be.
Because if you needed to push and force and strive and pursue something, you will never be able to possess it – at least not for long.
In this post, I talk about why pursuing happiness is never gonna make you any happier than you are now. Read on!
I recently read a happiness book an author wrote in order to track their pursuit of happiness through little projects they set up. So they had a list of things they would do – declutter the home, eat a certain type of meal, go to bed at certain times, exercise etc.
I don’t know why, but about a quarter way through the book, I started to feel almost tired reading about this author’s routines. Whilst I liked the idea of having small projects that can help improve your overall well-being, the constant need to do something to induce happiness just made me exhausted and well…more unhappy than happy.
It made happiness an achievement-oriented, goal-ticking exercise than a constant state of being or a temporary emotion.
I was all gung-ho at the beginning and adopted a few “happiness measures” that I did each day to ensure I was happy:
- Ate healthy lunches. I limited myself to wraps and green tea
- Exercised – be it brisk walks or quick stretches
- Read at least 5 pages of a book in the morning
- Listened to a podcast each day etc
But by the end of the week, I have to say I felt tired and I actually wasn’t truly enjoying any of these activities, although some of them are things that I absolutely love (podcasts and reading). I started to dread them and felt stressed when I didn’t manage to do them or fell behind in my progress.
So what went wrong there?
The problem with chasing happiness
Happiness becomes conditional
You start to think you can only be happy if you could:
- Find the perfect partner
- Move overseas/Travel more
- Have even more money than I do now
These stem from the belief we have that we can only be happy if only certain things in our lives happened. So what do we do? We chase things as a means to an end (happiness).
But it never ends there does it? Once we achieve something, there will be something else that we would need to make us happy.
In always chasing a condition, we are also always depending on something in the future to make us happy.
You think you can’t be happy right now because you don’t have whatever it is you want right now. So you can’t be happy.
But happiness is a state of being, an emotion that you can feel right this instant. You don’t have to deny yourself that feeling and tie it to other conditions in your life.
Happiness = Having more and more
Lots of people crave external things that they think will make them happy, but usually, that happiness is pretty short lived.
For instance, thinking that purchasing something – a new bag, a new pair of shoes – is going to make you feel so happy after. Sometimes it does. When it’s a good find, a great buy and something we willingly invest in, it can bring happiness over and over again.
However when you are constantly focused on buying things to make you happy, that sort of happiness is going to be short-lived.
Another example is travelling. People think that by travelling, they get to find themselves and the happiness they’ve been chasing after.
I always thought that a holiday was going to spark all sorts of warm fuzzies in me and that I’d come back super elated and enthusiastic about life.
But the feelings tend to fade after a week or two.
If you want lasting, inner happiness, it is something that has to come from within you. Not outside you.
Getting new stuff or travelling someone isn’t gonna give you lasting happiness.
It might feel good for a bit, it might bring you great comfort, even status, but inner happiness? No.
Happiness is something you have to work hard towards.
Happiness isn’t a KPI-ticking exercise. You don’t have to go out, hunt it down or chase after it either.
When you are constantly having to work hard towards being happy, you are never going to be happy.
You literally don’t have to do anything to be happy. You just need to choose to be happy right this minute.
Stuff like meditation, taking walks, breathing exercises are all great but you have to want to do it. And you have to feel good doing it.
What’s the point of meditating 15 minutes a day when it’s something that a friend told you makes them happy, but deep down it isn’t doing anything for you?
Forcing yourself to do stuff you don’t like is the complete opposite of happiness!
Happiness will happen after my problems are resolved
Life isn’t always going to be smooth sailing. Nobody on earth is going to go from birth to death with absolutely no problems to deal with. That’s not really what we are put on earth for.
Things will happen to you or people around you that will affect your happiness. Health scares, deaths, debt, toxic relationships etc etc.
That’s just life and we are all here to work through our own stuff.
So waiting until all the problems in your life is resolved to be happy is simply unrealistic. That isn’t going to happen and by doing so you are punishing yourself and delaying happiness.
There will always be something we need to work on. If it’s not big ticket items like career or money stuff, there might be other issues we are grappling with – self-esteem, emotional baggage etc.
Life is not perfect. We need to accept that. And in spite of that, we can still steal moments of happiness here and there.
Be present and live in those moments, don’t brush them aside. And most of all, don’t wait to resolve something just to feel happy.
You carry around feelings that are the opposite of happiness
Happiness is something that we choose.
If you are constantly choosing thoughts that don’t serve you, thoughts that are critical and negative, then it is difficult to find happiness that way.
Being happy is sometimes a choice. Things can happen to us. But we can choose our reactions and perceptions. We can choose our thoughts.
All these greatly influence our levels of happiness.
Comparing yourself to others
Technology is so prevalent in our lives these days. As with everything else, there are upsides and downsides to it.
Technology makes things so accessible. We can easily access things that make us happy but we can access things that make us less happy too.
It’s so easy to scroll Instagram and see people’s happy lives, living it up on beaches, wining and dining, shopping at luxurious places etc. It’s easy to get pulled into that fantasy that everyone’s life is perfect – except yours.
This is where I think social media needs to be used in a mindful manner.
And always remembering that people’s social media feeds are not true representations of their entire lives. Nobody is going to post pictures of them crying over a breakup, or having a bad hair day or being in debt.
Comparison is that one thing that can really detract from your happiness, but you need to constantly remind yourself that you have no idea what is really going on in people’s lives.
Comparing yourselves to them is useless because we all have different lives. We just need to focus on our own paths and our own happiness.
Doing prevents you from being
When you are constantly rushing around fulfilling all your ‘conditions’, solving all your troubles and buying all the things and ticking off your happiness checklist, you aren’t pausing to be happy.
You have no time to be happy.
This constant do do do mindset that our society has in its approach to everything is detrimental to happiness.
When you are always doing, you aren’t pausing to savour, to reflect or to really be present in the moment.
When you are preoccupied with doing or with thoughts of the next thing, we forget to enjoy the moment.
Savour the moments. Be present. Reflect. Take it easy.
How to be happier
So how does one be happy?
I’ve discovered that it’s pretty simple.
If you want to be happy, just be happy right now.
Choose happiness in every single thing you are doing. Enjoy the things you are doing now. Appreciate the people in your life. Hug them, say I love you. Compliment someone.
Find something to savour and just be in the moment – a cup of tea, a book, the raindrops trickling down your window pane, the bowl of soup in front of you, the conversation you are having with your best friend. Really be with each moment and enjoy it.
Then you will discover true happiness.
You don’t have to chase happiness. You don’t have to look for it. Happiness is in the here and now, and you are in the here and now.
Some things you could do
- Learning to be happy without conditions. Be happy just because you can, just because you want to. Don’t wait to have some condition in your life fulfilled before allowing yourself to be happy.
- Learning to be happy with an imperfect life. Life is never gonna be perfect or problem-free. The earlier we accept it, the happier we will be.
- Happiness is in the little things sometimes. Happiness does not necessarily come from the big stuff – huge pay raise, wedding, etc. The small things, like your conversation with the barista, enjoying a cup of coffee, a smile from a colleague. Small things go a long way. Savour them to the fullest.
- Connect more with the world and the people around you. Human beings are naturally very social creatures and it’s in engaging with social activities with other people that make us feel a warm sense of belonging. When we are bonding with others, oxytocin is released in our brains and boosts our emotions.
- Find meaning in the things you do. Life feels much happier and fulfilling if we are able to find meaning in the various things we do. If you are able to find a meaningful job or career in your lives or are able to find some sort of purposeful hobby or passion, you would feel much more fulfilled.
- Let go of people, things and situations that are toxic. Don’t keep yourself imprisoned to things that aren’t serving you well. Life is way too short to be hanging on to them.
- Don’t hold yourself back. Don’t overthink or overplan things. Sometimes spontaneity brings about a level of surprise that can make life’s little moments feel so happy too. These could be talking to a stranger, complimenting someone, taking up a hobby. Just do it. I used to spend so much time overthinking the details and overthinking conversations with people that I ended up holding myself back so much. I no longer plan for holidays either, I just walk around and do whatever I want to. It’s liberating.
- Learn to be happy NOW. Stop waiting for it to happen in future. You have no idea if you’d even be around tomorrow or 5 years down the road. So don’t waste your time overthinking or over-planning for the future. Or waiting to be happy. Be happy right now.
Today might not be perfect, but it’s a perfect day to feel happy.Lori Deschene
I love this quote. It tells us that happiness is not something to be held off to the future. It is also not conditional, and we don’t have to wait to feel happy.
Happiness is always available. It is available right now, where we are.
Are you choosing to be happy today?