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  • Writer's picturedrwendyross

Stop Chasing Happiness


If you look in any bookshop you will see rows and rows of books about happiness, how to find it, how to keep it, why you deserve it, and so on. So let’s get real, the pursuit of happiness is definitely a “first-world problem”, as we say in South Africa.

That is, if you are actively trying to find ways to “be happier” it probably means that all of your basic needs are already met. You probably have a roof over your head, food on the table, a group of friends and family and enough money for the little luxuries in life, such as eating out or going to a movie every now and then.

In this week’s article we will look at some of the misguided ways that people are trying to find happiness. The first, and often the most harmful in the long term, is trying to find happiness by buying new things. This is so prevalent in our society where we are constantly bombarded by messages through advertising on TV and more and more, adverts that stream directly into our smart phones through our social media feeds!

The ads scream out to us: Buying a better car will have you whizzing through the city streets at night with an impossibly glamorous person at your side, smiling lovingly at you! Buying a bigger house with a gleaming kitchen and multiple glossy bathrooms will make you the envy of all your friends and therefore you will be instantly happier. Did getting that wall-sized TV for Super Bowl actually result in a party at your place with a bunch of hip and happy friends sharing snacks and jokes throughout the game?

Probably not! It has been shown over and over that the happiness of a new purchase is fleeting. We quickly get used to the new object as being the norm, and once again start looking for something better. Then the next credit card bill comes and the feelings of dread and anxiety kick in! Now you are working harder than ever before to pay for all your sparkling new possessions and have less time and energy to enjoy them!

You might think that you will be happy once you have lost that stubborn twenty pounds. While getting fitter and attaining a healthy body weight is a worthwhile goal, it will likely not lead to lasting happiness if the number on the scale was your primary goal. Once friends and colleagues have all complimented you on your new shape, they move on and the accolades will dry up.

Finally, one of the worse things you can do, is pin your happiness on another person. While you might be temporarily diverted by a new partner or friendship, other people cannot be responsible for your happiness. If you are blaming someone else, or an external situation for your unhappiness, you are losing an opportunity to examine your own role in the situation. What energy are you bringing into it? Are you upbeat and positive, looking for new things to do and ways in which to get involved? Or are you expecting the other person to provide all the solutions?

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