Do you find yourself chasing happiness and feeling unhappier? At first glance, we would think that chasing happiness should make us happy. After all, we’re all actively in search of what would bring joy to our lives.
However, this is far from the truth. Chasing happiness only leaves you feeling unhappier. Why should that be?
There is a familiar feeling that accompanies the chase for happiness. You end up feeling overwhelmed and anxious. That pressure to be happy all the time could take a toll on you. The truth is, we don’t really understand what happiness truly is. Societal misunderstandings have fed us with a lot of pressure and anxiety surrounding discussions about happiness, so making happiness an end goal can leave us feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.
This results in chasing happiness out of our lives, instead of letting this blissful feeling in. A lot of us are so busy looking for something else that we don’t recognize when happiness hits. These societal misunderstandings are myths surrounding happiness that we have accepted for far too long.
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Myths About Happiness
Here are the 3 famous myths by society that shape how we view happiness.
1. Happiness Means No Negative Emotions
As unbelievable as it may sound, you can laugh and smile all day but still not be happy. Happiness doesn’t mean you’ll have to express joy 24 hours a day or 7 days a week. It’s a huge myth that is shared by a lot of people around the world.
You don’t have to be numb to negative feelings to be truly happy. Instead, it is about the full human experience, which includes both positive and negative emotions. The complete human experience involves every emotion that makes us human, even the bad.
If you wish to hone your ability to thrive and survive in today’s world, then you need to let go of this myth about happiness being the absence of negative emotions. Of course, negative emotions make us feel uncomfortable.
However, there is a good side to this. These negative feelings serve as an alert system to let you know the things that are wrong and how you can correct them. Instead of running away from these emotions, let them be a guide, and manage them properly.
2. Success Leads to Happiness
Now more than ever, we live in a society that is becoming more obsessed with success as each day passes. Everyone is working so hard to be famous, make a lot of money, and be the best in their fields. However, it’s not uncommon to see people who are “fulfilled” but unhappy.
This is because success doesn’t fuel your happiness. You may have that sense of achievement that comes with winning, but it would fade after a while to the level of happiness you had before that win. Being famous or having more money doesn’t make you happy either, especially if your basic needs are already covered.
Instead, happiness fuels success. You can get the type of success you want when you focus on your physical and mental well-being first. Try to live more in the present, and you will notice how reduced your stress levels become.
This has actually been supported by several research studies showing that people who experience more happiness and overall well-being also tend to experience more success—not the other way around.
3. Happiness Has Only One Formula
It’s simple: what makes you happy is not the same thing that makes the next person happy. People erroneously assume that we all want the same things in life to be happy. Everyone is unique, and you can only be fulfilled when you create your unique life.
One common reason for the propagation of this myth is that a lot of people don’t know what makes them happy. If thoughts about money make you stressed, you assume that this must be the key to your happiness. However, while moving a little above the poverty line increases happiness, it has no correlation to happiness beyond that.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Chasing Happiness
Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you spend your whole life trying to be happy, you will fail?” Chasing happiness will only leave you as disgruntled and discontent as a lot of other people. The only difference could be that you’ll be pretending that you’re happy instead.
You may be trying so hard to convince yourself that you’re genuinely happy. However, deep down, you’re screaming in pain and only pretending to be happy. This is not the right way to live your life. If you want to live a happy life, you need to embrace all experiences fully. Let yourself experience every wonderful moment, even the terrible ones.
Chasing happiness is only an attempt to block out the unpleasant aspects of life, and you can never sustain this. A life well-lived will contain both horrors and wondrous moments. Instead of sheltering yourself from pain, use it as a tool to learn and grow. It is through the pain that a lot of us learn to appreciate when good things happen.
Furthermore, the statement that chasing happiness only leaves you feeling unhappier is backed by scientists.
Researchers from the University of Toronto and Rutgers Universities published their study in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. It showed that when people try to pursue happiness, they will keep feeling like time is running out, which would make them unhappy. In the study, a group of participants was asked to list things that made them happy while others were asked to watch comedy clips.
Those who saw happiness as a goal felt like they had less free time than the others. From this study, we can see that time seems to vanish while we actively pursue happiness as a goal rather than just enjoying the moment.
Life would be incredibly dull if we had to live from one blissful moment to the other. Our wins and joys would be meaningless, as there would be nothing to celebrate.
Life can be compared to two sides of a coin: joy and anger, and happiness and sadness. So, rather than getting lost while chasing happiness, live a happier life by engaging in activities that allow the flow of happiness to you. What can you do to achieve true happiness?
How to Achieve True Happiness
Instead of chasing happiness, here are better ways to achieve genuine happiness:
1. Align With Your Values
What are those things that are truly meaningful to you? What gives you a sense of purpose and feeds your passion? When you’re able to answer these questions truthfully and work towards being actively involved in what you love, then you will be gravitating towards joy and satisfaction instead of constantly chasing happiness.
2. Do What You Enjoy
Chasing happiness can leave no time to focus on anything else. Instead of hanging on to this exhausting process, get engaged in something you enjoy.
Whether it’s writing, painting, or riding a bicycle, you won’t be thinking about yourself at that moment. Instead, you’ll be fully absorbed in what you’re doing. What happens next is that you have a euphoric response where you’re doing something you genuinely love.
3. Get Engaged in Something Significant
Happiness can flow towards you when you’re making a difference in the life of others. How can you make a difference in your community or even among your friends?
It can be as simple as being there to listen when they need it or putting a smile on someone’s face. You’ll experience that sense of satisfaction when you’re actively involved in something significant for others.
4. Live in the Present
It’s not easy to let go of future anxieties and past regrets, but it’s something you have to do to experience genuine happiness. You can live an enjoyable life when you think more about enjoying each moment as it comes. When you feel yourself drifting away, remind yourself to “be here now.”
Focus on your immediate surroundings and what you can be grateful for. If you have a roof over your head and food in your fridge, you’re already doing better than many people around the world. Let appreciation for these little things flow through you and watch how your happiness increases.
5. Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations
No one has a truly perfect life. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive to have a pleasant one. While doing this, you need to let go of the idea that you’re supposed to be happy all the time. There will be some not-so-pleasant moments; it comes with the territory.
However, embrace the belief that it’s perfectly okay to have an average life dotted with genuine moments of joy. If you’re sad, accept this emotion. If you’re happy, embrace this, too. Don’t try to deny your feelings as they could eventually become toxic.
6. Take It a Step at a Time
Think about what you want and take small daily steps that will take you there. Instead of setting unrealistic goals, break them into smaller goals that you will appreciate every step of the way.
7. Separate Happiness From Your Achievements
Your happiness shouldn’t be tied to your achievements. Yes, achieving your goals comes with a deep sense of accomplishment.
However, this becomes a problem when our achievements are deeply woven with how happy we feel. The absence of achievement shouldn’t be equivalent to the absence of happiness.
Instead of chasing happiness, experience true happiness by seeing what’s already there. In the words of Bertolt Brecht, “Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is right at their heels.”
You don’t have to chase happiness to get it. Instead, it involves more of seeing what you already have and appreciating it. You will notice that when you force yourself to chase happiness, it seems much harder to get it. However, when you realize that you can be happy about the smallest things, then you will be open to more colorful life.
Fulfillment follows when you live a life that is meaningful to you. So, stop chasing happiness and let it flow towards you instead.
|||^||Psychological Bulletin: The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?|
|||^||Science Daily: Can pursuing happiness make you unhappy?|