Want to be happy? Stop trying!
The key to happiness is accept reality and not to imagine some greater version of happiness. Projecting oneself into a better future and striving for something that cannot be just builds a disconnected between expectations and your everyday experience. This dissonance creates unneeded stress and leaves one in a worse state than if they didn’t vie for a “happier” self. Basically, learn from the stoics.
Our standards for happiness can also cause dissatisfaction when they are higher than what we can realistically achieve. If, for instance, we believe that happiness is all about experiencing pleasure—whether by dining at trendy restaurants or taking beachside vacations—then we’ll feel disheartened whenever we’re having an ordinary day. Individualistic cultures like the US and Germany are more likely to endorse these self-oriented forms of happiness, says Brent Ford, a psychologist at the University of Ontario.
It’s far more likely that we’ll feel content when we embrace happiness as a socially-oriented experience focused on finding meaning and purpose through kind acts. For example, a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that the simple act of participating in small talk with strangers can hold great benefits.