4 Secrets to find Happiness

Photo by  Amy Humphries  on  Unsplash

If you want happiness, stop looking for it!

“Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder…”– Henry David Thoreau

As we struggle through our days, the quest for happiness is great. However, the search for happiness really prevents us from finding it. The quest for happiness could be a recipe for misery. The more people value happiness, the less happy they become.

When we pursue happiness, our goal is to experience more joy and contentment. To know if we are progressing, we must compare our past happiness to our present happiness. This creates a problem: as soon as we make this comparison, we go from an experiment mode to an evaluation mode. The flow is a state of complete absorption in an activity. Think about when you are absorbed in the latest bestselling book, playing a sport you love or sharing a moment with a good friend you have not seen in years. You are in the flow: you are so immersed in what you do that you lose the thread of time and the outside world.

The challenge for many people is that they are so focused on the desire to find happiness that by chasing it, they often chase it away ... The simple solution is to follow these four secrets to find happiness rather than lose it:

  1. Looking everywhere for happiness, we disrupt our ability to find the flow.

    When people are in a state of flow, they do not notice their happiness because they are too busy concentrating on activity or conversation. However, after that, they describe the flow as an optimal emotional experience. Looking everywhere for happiness, we disrupt our ability to find the flow. Instead, we become depressed and enter a vicious circle: depression, which causes people to rate their daily plans as less pleasant, and to ruminate on why they are not amusing, aggravates the depression.

  2. Overestimate the impact of the circumstances of life on happiness.

    We tend to overestimate the emotional impact of positive life events. We believe that a good partner or a major promotion will make us happier, and we will adapt to the new situation. For example, winning the lottery does not seem to produce lasting gains in happiness.

  3. Pursue happiness alone.

    Happiness is an individual state, so when you look for it, it is natural to focus on ourselves. Yet, many studies consistently show that self-centred attention undermines happiness and causes depression. The more people attach value to happiness, the more they feel lonely each day to the point of feeling alone.

  4. In search of intense happiness.

    When we want to be happy, we look for strong positive emotions such as joy, excitement, enthusiasm and elation. Unfortunately, this is not the best way to happiness. Happiness depends on the frequency and not on the intensity of positive emotions. When we aim for intense positive emotions, we evaluate our experiences against a higher standard, which facilitates disappointment. When we explicitly seek happiness, we experience less joy. Studies indicate that an intense positive experience leads us to describe ordinary experiences as less positive. Once you have won the lottery, it is hard to enjoy finding a parking spot or winning a game.

Instead of just looking for happiness and rather than evaluating happiness every day or looking for the job of your dreams, look for the flow and feel the daily satisfaction of helping others. Change your actions, not your circumstances.

“Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.” – John Stuart Mill

The best things in life can only be pursued indirectly. If you really want to experience joy or meaning, you need to divert your attention from joy or meaning and towards projects and relationships that bring joy and meaning as by-products.