Why the pressure to be happy, can make us unhappy

Our obsession with happiness and positivity is a relatively modern phenomenon. Ironically though, striving to ‘achieve happiness’ could be making us unhappy.


Five reasons why trying to be happy could be making us unhappy

1. It makes us feel like we’re failing

If we expect to be happy all the time and make it our end goal, then it is easy to feel like we are failing whenever we feel less than chipper, despite difficult emotions being a normal part of life.


2. It leads us to hide our true feelings

If we feel pressure to be happy, then it can be hard to be honest with ourselves and others about our true feelings. This can lead us to bottle things up, go it alone and prevent us from seeking help when we need it.


3.It makes us focus on the destination and not the journey

Being happy takes work; it is often the by-product of making healthy choices, learning from mistakes and resilience built by overcoming challenges. It’s not a switch you can flick on or something we are going to feel all the time. Focusing on happiness as an end goal leads us to focus on things which will give us instant gratification, rather than things which over time will contribute to an overall sense of wellbeing.


4. It drives consumerism

The pressure to be happy drives consumerism because it leads us to buy stuff to try to make ourselves feel good. This only works in the short term though and can contribute to unhappiness by encouraging us to compare ourselves to others and to spend our money on things we don’t need as opposed to investing in things which contribute to our security or wellbeing.


5. It leads us to constantly evaluate how we feel

The pressure to be happy leads us to evaluate and overthink whether or not we are happy. This then leads us to be constantly aware of or thinking about ways our situation could improve, comparing ourselves to others and focusing on things that are not right in our lives. It leads us to think ‘we’d be happy if [fill in the blank]’. People who are truly happy don’t overthink it; they are happy to ‘just be’, knowing that happiness comes and goes.


Life is full of big and small ups and downs. If you’re going through a hard time, then acknowledge and embrace the emotions that come with it. Our goal in life should be to feel everything, the good and the bad, and be able to quietly appreciate when we are feeling good.


If you need to talk a counsellor about any stresses you are feeling, call SuicideLine Victoria 1300 651 251.

If it is an emergency, call 000.