Why Trying Too Hard To Be Happy Makes You Feel Worse

Stop wasting your time.

man in front of blue background trying to make himself smile with his fingers G-Stock Studio / Shutterstock

For most of my life I've been considered a pretty happy person.

Teachers commented on my positive energy, friends speculated that I could never be sad, and bullies told me to "stop being so freaking peppy."

While I never disagreed that my attitude was more optimistic than the norm, I hated the pressure of feeling like I had to be happy all the time.

Friends and family called me "a light," and would often tell me how much of a difference my good mood could have.


At my retail job in high school I was constantly brought up front to talk to the angry customers because my boss felt like if anybody could make them happy, it was me.

Having people see you as a positive person is awesome, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. But there's an unspoken pressure there — mainly created by myself — that I'm not allowed to be in a bad mood.

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I felt that way for a really long time, and as a result I was constantly hiding my emotions for a fear that no one would like me if I wasn't happy.

It felt like I would disappoint everyone if I couldn't cheer them up or bring up the mood with my positive attitude.

Thankfully, my days of people-pleasing are mostly behind me, but I feel like the pressure of feeling happiness is something just about everyone struggles with daily.

We have vision boards and goal lists and dream bodies. We read self-help books about "creating the life you want" and articles like "10 Ways To Be Truly Happy So You Can Stop Being Such A Miserable Cow."

We map out our futures while completely ignoring our present. All in the name of happiness.


Well, the girl who was once dubbed "an annoying ray of sunshine" is here to deliver some good news: you don't have to try so hard to be happy.

In fact, you probably shouldn't.

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Seriously, the neverending search for happiness is something that could drive you mad.

Why does trying too hard to be happy make you sad?

A 2018 report published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review states: "Unlike other goals, pursuing happiness rarely leads to attaining happiness (Schooler, Ariely, & Loewenstein, 2003). Instead, seeking happiness more often, ironically, decreases happiness."

The reason for this, they believe, is that spending your time "pursuing happiness as a goal ... requires an investment of time, and because happiness is a goal that is often never fully realized, the pursuit of happiness should cause people to anticipate needing to dedicate more and more time toward the continued pursuit of happiness and, as a result, to feel as though they have less and less time available to them in the present."


Happiness is a feeling. And like all feelings, it is temporary.

Despite what the internet has to tell you, happiness isn't something you can create. You don't pull it from a recipe book or follow a six-week program.

A lot of people (present company included) put their goals and dreams on hold in an effort to be happy first and live later.

But happiness isn't a destination. There's no roadmap or welcome center with spotless bathrooms.

So when you do reach it, don't worry about letting it go.




Nothing lasts forever and you'll only drain yourself trying to keep it. So stop trying to be happy, and just live.

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Emily Blackwood is a writer who covers pop culture, true crime, dating, relationships, and everything in between.