Chasing happiness is kind of the official mission of our lives. Along with life and liberty, the pursuit of happiness was defined as a fundamental human right in the United States Declaration of Independence all the way back in 1776. Similarly, the United Nations recognized it as a universal human goal in 2012.
But it turns out we are chasing the wrong thing. From my experience, you can pursue happiness with full force – but you still won’t be able to catch more than a glimpse of it.
Many times in my life, when I had a rough day, was sad for some reason, or when I accomplished something special at work, I felt like I deserve some happiness right now.On those occasions, I would often allow myself to do whatever I want. Eat all the chocolate, play video games non-stop, and ignore all responsibilities to focus on my needs.
Ironically, the days I let myself do everything I want, I feel the most exhausted, guilty, and ultimately unhappy in the evening.
Yet, I would step into this trap time and time again – even now, I still do sometimes. But if you really want to be happier, you have to realize that chasing happiness is not the way to go.
Distracting yourself is not happiness – it is what keeps you from being happy
When we want a quick boost of happiness, we often go for sweets, alcohol, social media, and other actual or pseudo drugs. We expect them to somehow fulfill us right this moment. And while they often do give you a quick boost of endorphins, primarily they distract you from what you really feel and need.
When I had a rough day, binge eating will not magically turn that around. When I feel unfulfilled, Netflix or YouTube will not change that. GIVE CHOCOLATE NOW! is ultimately just a thought, not a magical cure for my feelings.
The actual cure is being more empathetic with yourself. Instead of giving in to the first impulse, I try to pause and raise my awareness of what I really feel. Am I lacking something? Sleep? Emotional connection? A workout to reduce stress and release some guilt-free endorphins?
And then I do something to help me fulfill my actual need – a power nap maybe, meeting a friend, or getting my body moving, for example.
Conversely, when I actually did something extraordinary at work, I should savor that moment. Not drown my awareness in video games or social media feeds. Personally, I like celebrating a job well done with a bit of good whisky after dinner that I enjoy very mindfully.
Chase awareness, not happiness
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with enjoying nice things. Just don’t let it be a spontaneous, unreflected decision that only leads to guilt down the road. Reflect on what really improves your mood – and which pleasures actually end up only making you feel worse.
Spoil yourself with purpose. Get that massage or that special dinner, and do celebrate with your friends. But enjoy those moments with intention – be present, be aware.
I know it is difficult not to mindlessly go on the wild goose chase that is the Pursuit of Happiness. Pursuing awareness is much more challenging than simply giving in to your impulses.
But chasing happiness will only wear you out, as it has done to me for so long. Rest in your awareness – of yourself, your feelings, and the beauty all around us in this life – and then, happiness will find you instead.
Are you nodding your head in agreement, or did that sound too esoteric for you? I promise you: It really can be that simple. Rather than blindly following your first impulse or craving, just pause. Reflect on what your body and soul really need, and then try to give yourself the rest, nourishment, or emotional connection you are missing.
PS: Wow, you made it to the end! I am glad that you liked my input. So why not share it with some of your friends to help them find a little more happiness, as well? Social buttons are right here ↓.