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Why We Should Stop Chasing Happiness (& What to Practice Instead)

Happiness is only the tip of the iceberg. We experience a wide array of emotions that are perfectly valid and deserve our time and attention as well.  Learn 3 mindful practices to use instead of chasing happiness.

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Finish this sentence for me: I will be happy when  _______________. 

How many times have you promised yourself this?

When I was younger, I remember seeing phrases like these:

Don’t worry, be happy.

Being happy is the greatest level of success. 

Life is short, choose happiness. 

And while I believe those are all well-intentioned quotes, I think that sometimes we have an unrealistic view of happiness. 

In my own life, in times of confusion and struggle I often find myself saying “I just want to be happy again” or “I know things are headed in the right direction, but why am I not happy?”

After doing a lot of reflecting, I realized that being happy shouldn’t be our ultimate goal. Rather, we should strive to be mindful of all our seasons of life, thoughts and emotions.

Happiness is the one emotion that most of us give A LOT of weight to. But happiness is only the tip of the iceberg. We experience a wide array of emotions that are perfectly valid and deserve our time and attention as well.

If we only want to be happy and make achieving that the ultimate goal, we miss out on the full spectrum of life. 

Not to mention, expecting yourself to be happy all the time (no matter how great your life is!) puts unneeded pressure on yourself. It’s human to have ups, downs and somewhere-in-the-middle times – this doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong – quite the opposite, it means you are having the human experience.

Don’t get me wrong – feeling happy is wonderful and should be celebrated! However, achieving happiness shouldn’t be our sole focus because it tends to create unnecessary expectations for ourselves and our lives.

So how do we put this into practice? The key is to shift our mindset and practice awareness, curiosity and compassion with all of our emotions:

Awareness of your current state. Is your stomach tight? Are you shoulders tense? Are you finding yourself mindlessly going about your day and at the end of it, having a hard time recalling what you did? Or perhaps the opposite – are you in a great mood? Maybe you had a fantastic night’s sleep and a relaxing morning yoga session. Take time to be aware of whatever is is you are feeling. Your body will give you cues.

Curiosity about your own thoughts and emotions. Often times we will jump to conclusions about our own thoughts and emotions. To be curious means to allow yourself to explore them without judgement. 

Compassion towards yourself in all circumstances – the good, the bad and the in between. Repeat after me: You are only human. You’re allowed to feel great and you’re allowed to feel messy too. 

Key takeaways:

  • In making happiness our ultimate goal, we place unnecessary pressure on ourselves and may disregard other important emotions. 
  • Instead, we should practice awareness, curiosity and compassion towards the natural ups and downs of life. 
  • When we take the space to untangle our thoughts, we may discover that we are able to let go of less-than-stellar emotions much quicker than if we were to avoid them and keep pushing ourselves to be happy. 

This post was originally published on Mindful-LivingBlog.com.

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