April 19, 2014

Happiness is a Side-Effect. ~ Dr. Lindsay Havlicek Bell


There is a trend of happiness challenges taking the internet by storm.

Although I love the idea of people wanting to improve their lives and be happy, I am concerned about the potential implications of what happens when we make happiness the goal. The results could be counterproductive; leaving us feeling sad, frustrated, and definitely not happy!

These lengthy challenges require intense focus, and in my opinion, are unrealistic. What happens when people “fail” at the challenge? Happy people know they cannot be happy all of the time. Happiness is a by-product. I am proposing a different idea. Let’s shift the focus, and allow happiness to be a natural side-effect.

Here are 10 alternative ideas to consider:

1) Let’s stop evaluating how happy we are all of the time. We have to really live, connect, and be present. When we are thinking (or obsessing) about being happy, we are not actually living. We’re missing out because we are too busy in our own heads. We need to really live first to be happy!

2) We are not our feelings. Feelings come and go, and it’s okay to experience different emotions. We cannot be rigid about feeling happy all of the time. It won’t happen. We need to be flexible. Placing demands on ourselves never leads to feeling better. It causes stress! Experiencing the range of emotions is part of being human. Let’s recognize and accept that our feelings are not permanent. They come and go like clouds, and what would happen if we tried to keep a cloud? It’s impossible. We would be frustrated, and likely end up ruining the cloud in the process.

3) Let’s be grateful for what we have, and not focus on what we need in order to be happy. We don’t need vacations or a beach to be happy (although both sound like great options to me today!). If we focus on what we need all of the time we will just end up feeling worse.

4) Let’s avoid basing happiness on conditions. If we label that we will feel happy when a condition is met, then how do we feel when it does not happen? Not good. We don’t need things to happen to feel happy. There could always be another need or condition.

5) Let’s find joy in the little things. A squirrel on a nearby tree? The birds chirping? A warm breeze? Finding a hidden stash of dark chocolate? We need to absorb all of these moments! Let’s open up our eyes, really see, and connect to the beauty, wonder, and magic all around us.

6) We need to stay positive. Not every day is going to be awesome, and when less than ideal events happen, we need to keep positive and move on. When we make a mistake (which we all will), let’s not let it impact our self-concepts.

7) I know I always feel great when I spend time doing what I love. It draws me in, and I am fully present and connected. It is fun. We all need more of this time. Love playing the guitar? Play it! Love painting? Paint! Love yoga? Yoga on!

8) Let’s focus on love rather than what we fear. The more love we put out there, the more love going around, and the more love we will all experience. Let’s treat ourselves, other people, and the world with love and kindness.

9) We all matter. We need to all feel our importance, and recognize that we are a part of this universe. We are all connected. No one is alone. We need to know in our hearts that the universe would have an empty spot without us in it.

10) Most of us (myself included!) need a bit more spontaneity—less planning, and more living in the moment. Plans are important, but not everything in life needs planning. Where does the moment take us? Where is the natural flow and energy going? Too much planning means we are overthinking everything. Too much thinking means we aren’t really living and experiencing—and now we are back to tip number 1!

We cannot actively pursue and chase after happiness. It would be like chasing after a butterfly. Do the internal work, and the butterfly will come to you. No more pressure about having to feel happy every day. If we live, breathe, love, and are in the now, happiness will find us!


Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Apprentice Editor: Edith Lazenby / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: elephant Journal Archives


Read 1 Comment and Reply

Read 1 comment and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Dr. Lindsay Havlicek Bell