Warning: 5 Happiness Habits You Should Avoid At All Costs

The pursuit of happiness is a worthwhile endeavor. Happiness brings all kinds of good things to our lives. But how do you make yourself be happy?


It turns out, it’s not exactly easy. Many of us make some common mistakes on the road to happiness.  These five happiness habits have become common recommendations, but they don’t actually make you more happy at all!


Happiness Habit to Avoid #1: Filling Each Moment


If you’ve ever heard the phrase “live each day like it’s your last,” you’ve been on the receiving end of this bad habit. The mistake comes from a good place – we should savor our lives like the gifts they are. But this habit runs the risk of making us feel frantic and rushed, like we have to cram our lives full of unforgettable experiences. That’s stress, not happiness!


Instead, make sure you build time into your schedule for relaxation, hobbies, and peacefulness. I’m writing this sentence from a hammock right now, in fact! Don’t try to fill your life with so many opportunities that you don’t have time to enjoy just “being.”


Happiness Habit to Avoid #2: Purging


We’ve all been told that one of the true keys to happiness is accumulating experiences, not “stuff.” Research appears to concur that we all don’t need so many items lying around our house. But if you’ve ever cleaned house in a fit of fury and tossed away treasured mementos and memories, only to regret it later, you know the sad impact of this mistake. There’s such a thing as too much purging, and we run the risk of losing happy reminders of the past.


It’s a great idea to purge things that no longer serve you (see my previous entry on the 11 Things a Happy Person Doesn’t Keep Around the House). But don’t go too far. If it brings a smile or a tear, those memories are worth their weight in gold.


Happiness Habit to Avoid #3: Following Others’ Happiness


“That person looks so happy,” you think to yourself. “If only I <did yoga/ volunteered at a hospital/ knit my own sweaters/ learned how to surf/ fill in the blank> then I’d be that happy, too!” It’s true that there are some things that bring universal happiness. Volunteering, for example, has emotional benefits for nearly everyone. But you have to find your own unique calling, by volunteering for something that’s meaningful to you. Avoid tagging along on someone else’s path to happiness, and instead find the things that do it for you.


Happiness Habit to Avoid #4: Faking It ‘Till You Make It


We’ve been taught that if you make yourself smile, your attitude will naturally follow your outward expression. It turns out that’s wrong: a study from Michigan State University found that fake smiling can actually make you feel less happy and more emotionally drained. Instead of faking a smile, acknowledge your real feelings (even if only to yourself), then try to find an activity that will give you a genuine smile. I hear cat videos are readily available these days…


Happiness Habit to Avoid #5: Chasing Happiness


This might be the most counterintuitive lesson of them all: chasing happiness might actually make you feel worse. The reality is this: you can’t pursue happiness any more than you can avoid sadness. Both are feelings that come from simply being alive. By trying to chase the feeling of happiness, we set ourselves up to have a self-absorbed, ultimately shallow life (this Psychology Today article explains more about why).


Researchers say we shouldn’t chase happiness, but rather we should chase meaning. By living a meaningful life, full of purpose, we end up feeling happy and content as the end result. That’s a happiness that can last!



Don’t fall into the trap of these common happiness habits. They may be widespread and commonly recommended, but they won’t help you actually feel more happy in the long run.