A few years ago, I dated this guy who was forever in the pursuit of happiness. He was obsessed with being happy with his life – it was his ultimate goal in anything he did, from getting the bagel he had been craving all week to going on expensive vacations to buying things with money he didn’t have. Sadly, it almost never happened for him. He was usually left feeling defeated, disappointed and, most of all, lonely. Why couldn’t he just be happy even though it was something he so desperately wanted? Because he wanted it way too much.
Apparently, my ex-boyfriend isn’t alone in this situation. According to a new study, people who constantly strive for happiness are left feeling more lonely than happy the majority of the time. This study led the authors to state, “The current findings present a possible explanation for why a desire for happiness can lead to reduced happiness and well-being. It may be that to reap the benefits of happiness people should want it less.”
Based on my experience with my ex, I can say that I think this is really great advice to take if you want to be happy. I know it doesn’t seem to make much sense and, also, it seems totally unfair: you can only be happy if you don’t really care about being happy. But it’s true. Take my story as an example if you don’t believe me.
Like I said before, my ex wanted to be happy more than anything in the world. It was pathetic to watch, but not the sort of pathetic that people laugh about behind your back – it was the sort of pathetic that made you want to cry for that person.
He spent all of his time trying to be happy. No matter where we were or what we were doing, it was obvious that he was always thinking about one thing: was this going to make him happy? Was this going to be the thing that changed his entire outlook on life? His expectations were constantly too high and so he was almost always left disappointed. His attempt to be what he called a “normal, happy person” left him completely self-obsessed. He didn’t care how others felt – he only cared about how any given situation was affecting him.
This way of behaving obviously affected everyone around him in a negative way. Hanging out with him was hard – I constantly had this feeling of pressure, like I had a responsibility to make him happy and if it didn’t work, that meant that I had failed as a girlfriend. His friends were left feeling the same way – like they had to try too hard to please him, but nothing they did mattered because he was so self-absorbed that he never noticed their efforts.
Whenever my ex would cry to me and complain about his complete inability to be happy, I would sit there, confused. “Why don’t you just relax?” I would ask him. “Why don’t you just calm down and stop focusing so much on being happy?” When he asked me what my secret to being happy was, I told him, “You need to stop putting so much pressure on yourself. You’re never going to be happy if it’s the only thing you think about all the time.”
Nothing I said got through to him – and eventually, I left his side, as did most of his friends. We were all emotionally exhausted from having to deal with him – whenever he told us how unhappy he was, it just reminded us that we weren’t making him happy. He was too obsessed with himself to see that and he became a very lonely person.
And that brings me back to this study – the reason striving for happiness leaves you so lonely is because doing that makes you focus only on yourself rather than your relationship with other people. And once you’re left feeling very alone, of course you’re not going to be left feeling happy.
So, want to be happy? Take this tip: stop thinking about it so much. Stop talking about it. Stop obsessing over it. It sounds really corny, but one really important thing I’ve learned in life is that happiness can come when it’s really unexpected. Also? A big part of feeling happy comes from your relationships with other people. Focus on building connections with friends, family members and boyfriends/girlfriends. Don’t let your pursuit of happiness ruin your life like it did to my ex.
Do you know anyone who tries to hard to be happy? Do you ever struggle to feel happy? What are your tips for finding happiness? Tell me in the comments.