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Published on October 2, 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 make us happy. However, this is so far from the truth. Chasing happiness only leaves you feeling unhappier. Sounds weird, right?

Well, 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.

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.

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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. Sure, 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.

So, what’s the truth here? Happiness fuels success instead. 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.

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.

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Why You Shouldn’t Chase Happiness

Ever heard of 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. 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.[1]

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?

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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.

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. It doesn’t have to something complicated. 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. So, 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 towards 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.”

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 life. 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. So, 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.

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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. It’s a bolstering feeling. 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 unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Jacqueline T. Hill

Writing, Blogging, and Educating To Guide Others Into Happiness

Why Chasing Happiness Only Leaves You Feeling Unhappier How To Make Yourself Happy Today And Every Day How to Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself And Get Back Up Why It Matters to Take Care of Yourself First (And How to Do It) How to Not Take Things Personally for a Happier Life

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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