Here’s the paradox: the more you pursue happiness, the more you start feeling unhappy.
Happiness: everyone wants it in their lives, everyone is looking for it, and yet no one knows what it actually is.
Very interesting research, put together by the University of Toronto, suggests that the fact that happiness is such an abstract notion and there’s no clear definition to it, makes people feel unhappier.
Here’s what they’ve found:
- happiness is a moving target;
- people know that their time is limited, which makes the pursuit of happiness even more stressful;
- the result of people not knowing what happiness is, makes people feel uncertain, and, consequently, even unhappier because they are unable to achieve the state they are looking for.
Every generation can say that they are unhappy for various reasons. But every previous generation claims that every following generation must be happier because they won’t have to face the same problems. I’ve found it to be true that baby boomers think this about millennials and Gen-Z.
And, as a millennial, here’s what I can tell you.
Young Generations Feel As Unhappy As Ever
And no, we’re not pretending. Research is on our side.
Only 1 in 10 millennials identify their career as the top priority, while the other 9 say happiness is of the top importance.
Yet, a study, published by the Telegraph, claims that millennials have the most negative outlook on the future, claiming they have too much pressure from society to feel and become happy.
So what do millennials and Gen-Z kids do to get others to think they are living a happier life than they really are? Everyone knows about the dependent relationship younger generations have with social media. It seems we cannot stand up from bed without taking a look at EVERY social media account.
It’s safe to say that this relationship is toxic. Take a look: according to the study, published by the Independent, 51% of millennials claim they use social media like Facebook and Instagram to give the impression that their real-life relationships are perfect.
But How Can You Change That?
I believe that the reason the younger generation is generally unhappy is that we tend to hold on to a lot of things instead of letting go and moving on.
What are those things we hold on to?
Take a look. I guarantee you will relate.
1. Being a Control Freak
This is very hard to let go of. Once you start obsessing over controlling everything, you become an addict. The more things you have control over, the more you want your control to grow.
But what’s normal control and what’s obsessive control?
Normal control involves understanding that things may get out of hand, and you can roll with it. Obsessive control is trying to organize every little detail of your life, and when things do get out of hand, you freak out. Hence, you become a control freak.
It’s easy to imagine where such a mindset could take you. Being a control freak could lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, health deterioration because of chronic stress, etc. Not much space for happiness here.
So how do you let go of excessive control?
Understand that you can change the way you look at things, and that spontaneity can benefit you more than making sure that you have everything planned out.
Also, listen to your feelings. How often do you feel anxious or frustrated because of things you can’t control? Excessive control can keep you from noticing a lot of important things. Who knows, maybe you missed that moment of happiness you were so desperately seeking.
2. Being a People Pleaser
Who doesn’t want to be loved by everyone? Such a perfect feeling – everyone is smiling at you, saying how wonderful you are, thanking you...Isn’t it great?
Yes...and absolutely unrealistic.
As a people pleaser, you’re dragging around responsibility you didn’t have to impose on yourself. Trying to do well by everyone makes you feel responsible for how other people feel. But this is not your responsibility and can lead to why you feel unhappy every time you see someone who doesn’t like something about you.
Here are five of the steps that Ilene Strauss Cohen, Ph.D., describes that she took to help her in her struggle to stop being a people pleaser.
- Become self-aware
- Realize avoiding problems doesn't promote growth in relationships
- Understand the importance of being authentic
- Realize doing too much in a relationship hurts the relationship rather than helps
- Learn self-acceptance by looking at yourself with interest and respect rather than judgment and denial
When you are trying to do well by everyone, you lose yourself. You can live your whole life like that. It's important to pay attention to what feels good and right for you and not just for everyone else.
3. Being a Trash Keeper
Here’s what I mean by trash:
- past mistakes;
- toxic relationships;
For sure, letting go of this “trash” isn’t easy. We feel emotionally attached to these experiences. But here’s what you can do...
Think of the last time you did a spring cleaning in your house. You’ve collected all the unnecessary, old and annoying stuff from your apartment, called trash pickup and let these things go. You came back to your house and felt that it was easier to breathe now that you’ve let go of everything that held you back.
The same is with keeping trash in your life. Once you clear it, there will be enough free space for happiness to enter your life.
4. Being Motivated by Money
Perhaps the biggest reason why the younger generation cannot feel happy is that we are too attached to money. Some of this attachment is born out of necessity. Many of us have to work hard to pay off student loans, feel the pressure of buying our own place or providing for the family. It’s too easy to get dragged down this hole.
Nevertheless, it is always important to remember that money doesn’t buy everything. It doesn’t buy you the ability to wake up in the morning and be grateful for everything you already have (even if you don’t have a lot). Learning contentment and gratitude can help you feel happy every day, knowing that you are blessed with what you have.
Don't Chase Happiness
Happiness is different for everyone and in this life it doesn’t last forever. But we can have happy moments, even small moments, when we feel the most complete. You can experience these happy moments more often if you let go of things that put you in the wrong mindset.
Here’s one more thing: don’t chase happiness. It’s not a hunt. Happiness is not a kind of a wild animal, and you’re not a hunter. Instead, be present in the current moment. Who knows, maybe right now is the moment to be happy?
More From TheHopeLine
As Diana writes, chasing the elusive notion of happiness can leave us feeling empty when we don't find it or feel it. Happiness often relies on external triggers such as other people, things, circumstances and experiences. She gives a lot of good practical tips of things to let go of to make more room for experiencing happiness.
We would also like to add that there is something more substantial than happiness and that is joy.
The Bible talks a lot about joy. God knows the power of joy and desires it for us: "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (Proverbs 17:22)
God offers us joy, contentment and hope when we believe in him and have a relationship with him. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." Romans 15:13
Joy from the Lord to those who believe is not fleeting and external, it lasts despite our circumstances. If you have tried everything to find contentment and peace and are still struggling, consider this...Learn More About God.
Diana Nadim Adjadj is a writer and editor who has a Master's degree in Marketing. She combines her passion for writing with her interest in research and creates thought-provoking content in various fields. Diana also runs her own 3to5Marketing blog.