Let’s talk about the pursuit of happiness. Research shows that trying to be happy will make you less likely to be happy, and in fact may actually make you feel worse. Here’s why: Researchers at the University of Denver recruited a group of volunteers who’d recently gone through a stressful event, like a divorce or the death of a loved one. They asked each person to list their goals, and fill out questionnaires to measure their emotions and overall feelings of contentment.
Guess what? Those who listed “being happy” as a goal had the lowest levels of life satisfaction! In fact, they were four TIMES MORE likely to be depressed than those who didn’t rank happiness as a goal. The key is to focus on doing things you enjoy – not on the end goal of being happy.
- For example, University of California psychologist Jonathan Schooler says doing things you enjoy will increase your happiness level – provided the activities are healthy. In other words, a bag of cookies won’t make you happier, but a walk will.
- Try making someone else happy. One problem with making happiness a goal is that it shifts our focus from other people to ourselves. Research shows that self-absorbed people are more likely to feel lonely and depressed.