In order to become happy, you have to find happiness. At least that’s how I think most people see it. And for the most part it’s true since you have to go out into the world and see what works best for you.
But it is only true up to a certain point. Eventually the search for happiness itself can become counter-productive and actually decrease your level of happiness. It all comes down to how you see the world and the mindset you accept as you continue your search.
When Searching is Too Much
So what is it about searching for happiness that can make you less happy? As you search for happiness, you accept two things about yourself.
• I’m not currently as happy as I should be.
• Happiness is something “out there” in the world and I haven’t found it yet.
Both statements are required for those searching out happiness. These are the two driving forces that compel you to continue your search. They also help form your general mindset about how your life is going at the moment.
And really, they’re not bad thoughts themselves if things for you are honestly terrible. If you have major problems or are in a bad situation, these two statements can help motivate you into a better life. They can be really good things.
It’s when your life has become pretty good that they can become counter-productive. Even though things are going pretty well, you might continue to focus entirely on your happiness that is still “out there”. You risk paying more attention on what to get instead of what you already have.
And this lack of attention on what you already have is a problem. You might have some really good things going on about your life, but if you never stop to appreciate them, you don’t allow them to make you feel good. All you think about is what you don’t have.
You could make yourself happier just by stopping your search and taking time to appreciate all the good things you’ve made for yourself. This is impossible to do if your only concern is looking for ways to make things better.
The Paradox of Happiness
This can trap you in something like a paradox. You search for happiness and get some good things, but don’t stop your search to appreciate them. Because you don’t appreciate what you have, you feel unhappy. This makes you continue your search for happiness. It’s one big loop.
Unless you’re in a bad situation or things are going terribly wrong, focusing entirely on your search for happiness is the wrong approach. Now I’m not saying that you should ever stop searching for things that make you happy. But more focus should be paid attention to the things you have, not the things you don’t have.
Here’s what you can do to avoid this trap:
1. Spread out your focus
Don’t spend all your time thinking about what you should get. All this will do is make you feel worse about yourself. Make sure to spend an equal amount of time appreciating all the things you have going on around you.
2. Stop comparing
One trouble with focusing too much on what to get is that you’ll end up comparing yourself to other people and what they have. Comparing yourself to other people will only make you feel worse about yourself. It’s alright to make goals for yourself and set standards, but obsessing over comparisons with other people is counter-productive.
3. Make gratitude a habit
If you don’t stop once in a while to appreciate how your life is going, you’ll never find happiness. Make feeling grateful about yourself and your life a routine habit. This will make sure you never lose sight of all the good things you have.
One of the biggest truisms about happiness is that it is all a state of mind. Basically that means you can make yourself happier by changing nothing about yourself except the way you look at the world. That’s hardly a new thought.
But you could extend that by saying unhappiness is also a state of mind. So you could also be making yourself unhappier through your thoughts. One simple change of focus could make all the difference. It might just be the right time to shift focus from what you don’t have to what you do have.
photo credit: stuant63