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4 mins

I Stopped Trying to be Happy — Here’s what happened

I was stuck in the happiness paradox. Here’s how I got out (and you can too).
by Chris Allmer | Jan 15 2024

Just 14% of U.S. adults say they’re very happy. And for a long time, I’ve considered myself part of the 86% of that statistic: anything but very happy.

For a long time, I was doing all the things that I thought would make me content, and land me in the top 14% spot: I tried leveling up my career, finding a newer and better apartment, even taking an all-inclusive ritzy vacation — the kind you see on White Lotus. 

But in truth, not one of those things, or the combination of them all, made me any happier. If anything, they made me even unhappier. A concept, I discovered, that’s called the happiness paradox, or the idea that constantly seeking and chasing happiness actually makes you feel less happy.

To get out of the happiness paradox, I read The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris— the self-help guide that shows you how to actually achieve happiness, without chasing it.

To start my real happiness journey,  I needed a tool that people trusted and relied on —and had proven results. That was when I found Blinkist, named one of the top apps for lifelong learning by Apple.

With over 94 Thousand 5-star Ratings and  28 million users, the app uses neuroscientific research methods to help users make real changes in their lives. In fact, 87.5% of 3,500 users surveyed in the US said they often make changes based on what they learn through Blinkist.

“As a productivity coach and one of the life long learners, I can’t tell you how happy I was to find Blinkist. If you enjoy nonfiction reading and are short on time, Blinkist will be your new favorite app.”
Karen Trepte, HuffPost

Source: Calling all Life Long Learners! Have I got a treat for you.

What The Happiness Trap taught me about actually being happy 

1. Focus on your observing self

Harris makes a pretty incredible distinction between the selves: the thinking self and the observing self. The thinking self is the part of us that’s always judging. It’s the little voice inside all of our heads that we can’t seem to silence. 

The observing self, though, is more important: it only observes. Instead of thinking about an experience and judging it, you can actually be in the experience, without any analysis. 

2. Rethink negative thoughts

If you’re anything like me, negative thoughts rule your life.

But according to Russ Harris, negative thoughts can be overcome not by avoiding them, but just by looking at them as thoughts — nothing more. They’re simply words and symbols moving across the mind, and have no real impact on your waking life.

3. Let your uncomfortable feelings roam

“The more we try to avoid the basic reality that all human life involves pain, the more we are likely to struggle with that pain when it arises, thereby creating even more suffering.”
Russ Harris, The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT

No matter how hard anyone tries, it’s impossible to avoid difficult feelings. 

So instead of trying to dodge them, and squeeze them out of your brain, Russ Harris recommends actually allowing yourself to expand enough that you give these feelings space to breathe. Counterintuitive right?

By giving negative thoughts the freedom to roam, they have less control over you — they are just passing feelings that will come and go.

4. Be present

The thing about chasing happiness is that when we’re constantly on a mission to find happiness, we miss what’s going on right in front of us. Here comes the buzzy word we all know and love: mindfulness.

If you’ve ever read  The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama, you might already already be familiar with this kind of practice. But, essentially, both happiness teachers recommend immersing in the here and now, increasing one’s awareness of the present moment, which allows you to take steps toward a more fulfilling life. 

5. Identify your values and act on them

In order to lead a fulfilling, happy life, you have to determine what you value most, or what you stand for. 

Like in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, readers are encouraged to focus on what gives them a sense of purpose, and to really identify what they really want in life. Once you’ve identified your values, write them down, with actionable short-term and long-term goals for living them out everyday. 

Escape the happiness trap — in 15 minutes or less. 

With over 6,500 titles in the app, 27 different categories to choose from, and 70 new additions every month. users can listen to or read each title in 15 minutes. That means you can learn about mindfulness, and identify your values on the go: while commuting, working out, or even cooking. 

Start your free 7-day trial

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