Chasing happiness is not the goal and why it can be harmful

Oct 5, 2022 | Mental Fitness, Purpose, Self Development

by Amy Desvaux, Psychology Researcher

When I make more money, I’ll be happy…When I get that job, I’ll be happy…When I leave school, I’ll be happy…When I find the perfect relationship, I’ll be happy… Oh, the danger of when. You know what I’m going to say, don’t you? Even when we get our “when’s” we are still going to want something else. So let’s talk about how to stop chasing happiness and what we should chase instead.

In positive psychology, a foundational concept at EverYellow, we talk about two different kinds of happiness: hedonic and eudaimonic. Hedonic happiness is the kind you’re probably most familiar with. It’s the happiness we get from our pursuits of pleasure and enjoyment. On the other hand, we have eudaemonic happiness, which is kind of just a fancy old greek word for happiness that is created by a sense of purpose. This type of happiness is known to give a deeper and consistent sense of being happy.

There is only so much we can do to control our emotions and life circumstances, but we do have control over where we find meaning. Now don’t get me wrong, hedonic happiness is really important to our well-being as well, but you are more likely to get stuck in the cycle of “when” if you are only focusing on that type of happiness.

The cycle of “when” is not the only harmful side effect of chasing happiness. Research has shown that having happiness as a goal is not linked to higher levels of happiness but is more likely to lead to disappointment. This is because we often make goals that are too specific with outcomes that are often out of our control. Of course, when we don’t achieve, receive, or succeed the way we envisioned, we will be disappointed. Again, we need to switch our focus from chasing the elusive happiness to finding meaning in our everyday.

One way to find meaning is to do a little self-assessment. Ask yourself what gives you true joy. What are the things you really value in life? What are the things you are good at (I heard some of you say nothing there… but I promise you have some pretty special talents!) – if you need to, ask someone else what they think you are good at. Now, make some plans about how you are going to incorporate these things into your week.

A fantastic way to stop chasing happiness is to live more in the present moment. How do we turn this from a cliche into a practical tool? I am so glad you asked! Here are few ideas:

  • Practice gratitude. All you need is a little bit of paper by your bed, or even a dedicated note page on your phone. At the end of each day, right before you tuck in for the night, just write down three things you are grateful for. This could be anything from a delicious snack, to the sun shining, to someone making you laugh. Do this for a week and see how you feel.
  • Spend time with people WITHOUT YOUR PHONE. Just pop it aside for even half an hour and really focus on who you are with. This might feel a little uncomfortable at first, as so many of us are used to being available 24/7 and wanting to know what everyone else is up to. I promise, it will get easier.
  • Listen to EverYellow for a while and pick out a narration or two and really think about it. What can you learn from it? What can you do with that knowledge?

All it takes is a little change of mindset. Instead of focusing on your “when’s,” start focusing on your “now’s”.



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