5 Ways To Find Happiness When Doing Everything 'Right' Didn't Work

A therapist's advice for the moments when having everything feels like a trap.

Last updated on Jun 12, 2024

Woman finding her happy, taking a selfie LOOK | Canva

So we’ve been told that we need to get educated, get a great job, get married, buy a house, get a raise, make babies, and juggle all those balls for many years and that will make us happy.

On most days, you get it done, and on most days you feel okay-ish.

After all, you have the job and house and kids and husband. You are doing it all and you have it all. Isn't that supposed to make you happy?

The reality is, that women today have more things and are making more money. And yet they are less happy than ever.


We are more medicated for anxiety and depression, all while we convince ourselves that we can have it all and do it all.

The dual burden sometimes leads women to feel simply miserable and exhausted.

But there is hope!

There is an antidote for this. It has a lot to do with our expectations and the stories we tell ourselves.

Happiness is not something we seek, but rather something we choose.

You were sold a bill of goods when it comes to being happy as women.


It was never true that success alone would bring you happiness. The problem may not be with you after all. 

The problem is you believed that attaining those things would make you happy, and you are stumped and frustrated that it doesn’t.

But it can’t. It never could.

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Happiness is not out there. It’s inside yourself.

It’s kind of like when someone gushes about how great something tastes and you taste it and it just tastes okay you are disappointed. If someone told you the same thing was very good for you and that it tasted okay, you would eat it and have a very different experience. Your expectations would be realistic.


Eighteen long-term studies cited in Psychology Today showed that being married does not result in being happier or having a more satisfied life.

Women are actually less happy in marriages than men.

I am not saying that you should chuck your marriage. I love marriage. I believe in marriage, but you definitely shouldn’t expect it by itself to give you the happiness you desire.

If you’re seeking happiness by making more money and already make $75,000 or more per year, research demonstrates that won’t do it either.

So, is there anything you can do to create happiness in your life?


If you are realizing that you need to create more happiness in your life or even some at all, you need to incorporate these 5 aspects into your busy life.


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Here are 5 ways to rescue your happiness when trying to 'have it all' is killing you

1. Strong friendships

We, as humans, were made to be in a relationship with each other. Babies die if they are not touched. Even if all of their other needs are met, without human connection, they literally DIE.

This is an extreme example of how crucial connection is for humans.

Even though you may be connected as a wife and mother, women need a sense of community with other women for support in everyday life.

As a busy woman, it can be hard to find the time for friendship or to even see the benefits of it in your life.


I get it. You have so many other obligations, but we know that fostering these connections in your life increases your sense of well being and over all happiness and satisfaction with your life.

Everyone benefits from that.

Good friends help rescue your happiness Nuva Frames via Shutterstock

2. Exercise

Just move your body regularly you don’t have to be a gym rat.


Pick something you enjoy doing.

More importantly, pick a time when you will actually do it.

Some bodies exercise well first thing in the morning. Others work well in the middle of the day.

A recipe for success is to know your body and pick a time and activity that works best for you.

Your body was made to move. Invest in movement. Do it with a friend and you’ve just killed two birds with one stone!

3. Gratitude

Gratefulness can sometimes be as simple as changing the story you tell yourself about your circumstances (remember the food example earlier?).

When you highlight the good, the bad fades into the background.

Happiness is a choice and it begins with a paradigm shift in your thought process about yourself in the world.


Find something every day to be thankful for.

Write it down, even if it is just a word or a quick sentence. The process of writing moves your thoughts from short-term memory to long-term memory and increases its impact on your brain.

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4. Hobbies

You need one thing that you enjoy so much that when you do it, you lose time.

Sometimes we spend so much time focusing on what we need to do or what we feel we should be doing that we neglect the things that we are actually good at doing.

When we aren’t trying to compare ourselves to others, we will naturally gravitate to those things we actually do well.

There is so much intrinsic joy in living life in our zone. That intrinsic joy decreases our blood pressure and creates happiness hormones that bring fulfillment to our lives.

If you can get your family involved in your hobby, even better!

Friends help us rescue happiness CarlosDavid via Shutterstock


5. Helping others

Doing something for others gets your mind off of your own problems for a while. It gives you a chance to put your life in perspective.

Research has demonstrated that those who give, volunteer, or practice some form of altruism are happier and have reduced rates of depression, even if they previously suffered from depression.

Getting your kids involved in handing out food to the homeless or making care packages for those in need is a wonderful opportunity to model happiness-creating activities for them and you are helping the world in the process.

The beautiful thing is that these are easy to incorporate into your life. Just add one at a time.


Once you realize that you jumped off the happy train a few stops ago, you can get off, change direction and make choices that create happiness again in your life.

Remember, happiness is a choice and not greatly affected by life situations.

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Dr. Zoe Shaw is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert with over 20 years of experience who consults with clients from all over the world. She has been featured in Recover Today, Weight Watchers, The Oprah Magazine, Forbes, Vox and more.