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  • Why am I not happy?

    This webpage is an archive and no longer reflects current information about the Happiness Alliance – home of The Happiness Initiative. Please visit happycounts.org. 

    Negative emotions include sadness, fear, distress, anger, loneliness, greed, hatred and other feelings that, if ongoing, can narrow your attention and cognition – leading to your becoming more brittle, inflexible and having difficulty in recovering from setbacks and emotional blows.  Negative emotions are not bad per se, and can be a signal that something is needs your attention and action.

    Obstacles to happiness
    How come I’m not happy?   Some psychological obstacles to happiness for people pursuing a happiness along the roads to happiness are:

    Hedonism - The main problem with this approach is called the hedonic treadmill.  The thrill wears off when we become used to them.  To compensate, the intensity of the stimulation must be increased until it becomes unhealthy and unsustainable.  Pleasure seeking may easily become addictive or self-destructive.  Pleasure seeking may also lead to unrealistic goals or mistaken goals that you many pursue even if it ruins your health or is destructive to others, the community or the planet.  Examples of other unrealistic goals are perfection, total control over everything, or trying to be so good or so clever that nothing bad could ever happen to you. If you pursue happiness through hedonism you can include many and various pleasures and to check to see if you are engaging in over-indulgence or unrealistic thinking.

    Eudemonia - For people pursuing eudaimonic happiness, some of the main obstacles are excessive focused time spent on thinking about on negative experiences. Negative emotions tend to be more intense and more attention-grabbing than positive emotions, so come to mind more easily.   If you are pursuing happiness through eudemonia, you can foster positive emotions through awareness by using  loving-kindness meditation, gratitude journaling and other strategies that increase savoring and capitalizing positive experiences. Negative experiences can bring insight and self-knowledge which can increase happiness, so should not be ignored altogether.

    Flow - Pursuing happiness through flow can lead to diffuse attention: Flow is achieved through a quality of attention that requires clear focused activity and intention.  Not having goals or not making progress towards goals interferes with the required focus.  Excessive consumerism; excessive passive leisure, like watching a lot of television or gossiping; and excessive multitasking or too much unstructured time can make it very difficult to enter flow. Conflicts among goals, goals that do not meet your needs or goals set by someone else can be obstacles to happiness. Also, engaging in an activity with the sole purpose of achieving a goal can be an obstacle to happiness. If you pursue happiness through flow, check to see if you are clear on your goals, and that your goals are aligned with your needs and values.

    Chaironic - For people interested in chaironic happiness, wavering commitment or doubt can decrease happiness.   People who describe themselves as highly committed to their spiritual or religious practice or a sense of connection to a higher power are twice as likely to assess themselves are “very happy” as those with low sense of commitment. If you are taking chironic road, happiness and life satisfaction rise with the frequency of interaction and strength of connection with a place of worship or organization associated with your sense of higher purpose. You may consider developing or strengthening your relationship with a place of worship, organization or other like-minded people.