Last Updated on December 22, 2020

Why Chasing Happiness Only Leaves You Feeling Unhappier

Why Chasing Happiness Only Leaves You Feeling Unhappier

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.

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[1].

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.[2]

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

More About Pursuing Happiness

Featured photo credit: Andrea Rico via



More by this author

Jacqueline T. Hill

Writing, Blogging, and Educating To Guide Others Into Happiness

20 Invaluable Things Money Can’t Buy 23 Self-Care Ideas For Women To Rewind 14 Reasons To Always Try New Things in Life How To Not Stress: 10 Stress Management Techniques How to Learn to Be Alone and Happy About It

Trending in Happiness

1 I Want To Be Happy: 7 Science-Backed Ways to Find Happiness 2 13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently 3 10 Morning Habits Of Happy People 4 What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People 5 13 Simple Habits of Happiness To Change Your Outlook on Life

Read Next


Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:


  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.


Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.


Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.


However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.


Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:


  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:


Read Next