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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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 unsplash.com

Reference

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Jacqueline T. Hill

Writing, Blogging, and Educating To Guide Others Into Happiness

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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