To Be Happy, Stop Trying So Hard to Be Happy


According to the latest in happiness research, you’re better off “focusing on living with a sense of purpose” than you are trying to achieve “happiness,” whatever that is. And, apparently, focusing on trying to be happy all the time may make you less happy. This is because things that may make you long-term happy — like having kids or getting a degree — may make you somewhat miserable in the short-term. But that’s okay; it’s your purpose!

As the Wall Street Journal reports, over the years we’ve become focused on a kind of happiness related to our material possessions and status, instead of being happy with, say, having meaning in life. At the same time, depression, paranoia, and psychopathology have increased. Researchers think these things could be related.

According to a study of 950 individuals,

Researchers have found those with greater purpose in life were less likely to be impaired in carrying out living and mobility functions, like housekeeping, managing money and walking up or down stairs. And over a five-year period they were significantly less likely to die — by some 57% — than those with low purpose in life.


People who primarily seek extrinsic rewards, such as money or status, often aren’t as happy, says Richard Ryan, professor of psychology, psychiatry and education at the University of Rochester.

While it’s okay to try to be happy, to some extent, the researchers say that fixating can become a “psychological burden.” So, in a nutshell: Stop complaining that you’re not happy, do stuff that you love with people who you love, and…there you are. Happy. Just don’t say it, you might jinx it.

Here is a brief list of things that make your Runnin’ Scared team happy, short-, long-, or whatever-term:

Adorable animal videos
2-for-1 wine specials and any sort of happy hour
Sour candy
New York
Finding our credit card still in our wallet the next day
The Cha Cha Slide

Hey, we don’t judge your purpose.

Is Happiness Overrated? [WSJ]