Can Trying to Be Happy Make You Unhappy?

Can the pursuit of happiness actually be detrimental? New research reveals that it might. Firstly, though we have to answer the age-old question, what is happiness? Do we measure it as short-term, instant gratification or a long-term outlook? Most of us look at the short-term rather than long-term fulfillment. We always look at what we want in the moment, instead of what will give us long-term positivity. The short term gratification does not provide for long-term happiness. Unfortunately, the pursuit of happiness can be detrimental if it becomes an obsession of things we think will make us happy, such as money or material things, and come at the cost of health or relationships.

There are some signs that your search for the “good life” might be holding you back. One major tipping point to consider is feeling chronically unsatisfied. Something may feel good for the moment, but then you go back to complacency and disappointment … and then, you go trying to find the next thing, whether it be burning through a bank account or relationships. That leads to a second warning sign, which is that you are always looking for the next big thing: nothing satisfies you, so you continue to look for something external to make you happy.

It’s important to know what will make you happier in the long run. Research shows that there are a few things that can build toward longer term happiness. These things include finding a sense of purpose, building meaningful relationships with others, focusing your mind on things you want to accomplish in your life.

What doesn’t increase happiness? Money can’t buy happiness. One international study found that rising incomes per capita DID NOT lead to happier people. In fact, they found declines in satisfaction. Money does help in the short-term, but not in terms of long-term contentment.

Being happy does have a lot of benefits for our physical well-being. Happiness leads to less stress, stronger immune systems, speedier recoveries, and longer lives. According to the European Heart Journal, happy people were 22% less likely to develop heart disease and research from journal Archives of General Psychiatry reported those with a higher sense of purpose in life were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

What can you do to strive for a more healthy pursuit of happiness? Here are three tips:

  1. Surround yourself with positive people
  2. Find your purpose
  3. Practice random acts of kindness

What are your secrets for happiness?