Man looking unsure about himself

People weren’t always constantly obsessed with being happy

You’ve probably wondered at some point just what is happiness – but have you ever stopped to think why we’re all so fixated with it?

The definition of happiness can be best described as feelings of joy, contentment or fulfilment. Simpler happiness definitions simply describe it as the “the state of being happy” or something equally self-explanatory.

Happiness is something we all aspire to, or so we’re told, and that the constant pursuit of happiness is a natural part of human psychology.

You might ask yourself, who doesn’t want to feel happy and fulfilled? And if I don’t feel that way, could there be something wrong?


History of happiness

Did you know that it hasn’t always been that way? The daily fixation with ultimate happiness and positivity is a relatively modern phenomenon, and the great irony is that constantly striving to ‘achieve happiness’ could be having the opposite effect.

Why is this so? Here are some common reasons why our obsession with constant happiness could be making you unhappy – and how to recognise and deal with it.


1) It’s normal to have negative feelings

It is perfectly normal to experience negative feelings like anger and sadness. That’s because difficult and unpleasant emotions are a normal part of life. If you expect to be happy all the time and make it the ultimate goal, you could actually end up feeling like you’re failing whenever you feel less than overjoyed.

Managing it: Not every day will be filled with endless joy. Accept it as a normal part of life.


2) Are you being honest to yourself?

Do you feel a constant need to tell yourself or those around you about how happy you are (social media can often be a guilty accessory)? You might find that you’re masking or not being truthful with yourself (and people around you) about your true feelings. Unfortunately, bottling up your true feelings is unlikely to lead to long-term happiness. You may even end up facing difficult situations alone and not seek help when you need it most.

Managing it: Be true to yourself and recognise that everyone struggles emotionally at some point in their life. Reach out and be honest when you need help.


3) The pursuit of happiness is as much about the journey as the result

Being happy takes work. That’s because happiness often comes from making healthy choices, learning from mistakes and building resilience by overcoming challenges and difficulties. Happiness so often comes from the result of your circumstances. It is not a switch you can flick or something anyone is going to feel all the time.

Managing it: Focusing on constant happiness as an end goal could mean you focus on things which will provide instant gratification, rather than things which over time contribute to an overall sense of wellbeing.


4) Striving for happiness can drive you to spend

The pressure to be happy can drive consumerism and unnecessary spending. It leads people to buy things that they may not necessarily need because they believe it makes them feel good. In fact, this only fulfils a short-term urge. In the long run, it can actually contribute to unhappiness.

Managing it: Spending can encourage some people to compare themselves to others. They can fall into a trap and end up spending more money on things that aren’t needed. It is far better to spend money on things which improve your security or wellbeing.


5) Are you comparing yourself to others?

The belief that you always need to be happy can bring with it an urge to evaluate and overthink whether in fact you are happy. This can lead some people to incessantly think about how to improve their situation, comparing themselves to others and focus on things that are not right in their lives. You might even start to believe that “I’d be happy if [fill in the blank]”.

Managing it: People who are genuinely happy don’t overthink it and don’t incessantly compare themselves to others. They are, in fact, ‘comfortable in their skin’ and are happy to be just who they are, knowing that happiness comes and goes.


Need help? You can find support services in Northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.