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10 Reasons Why Happiness Is Eluding You

Why happiness seems to be just out of your reach.

It seems like happiness is just beyond your grasp, no matter how hard you try to feel good. It may feel like a lot of people have this "happiness" thing down, and you are one step outside that circle. Here are reasons why happiness may be eluding you, and how you can fix it.

1. You are too hard on yourself.

You may be expecting perfection from yourself, and when you don't reach it, you get upset with yourself. No one is perfect. Aim for good enough. Very few things in life really require that you do them perfectly. And if you do something perfectly, you are still an imperfect person. The imperfections are what make life interesting and fun. Imperfections give you good stories to talk about later. Remember, you always have the right to do less than what is humanly possible.

2. You forget you have a choice.

You may be feeling stuck in your life - you're having the same issues at work, hearing the same complaints from your kids, having the same money issues every month. First try to change something about your circumstances. If you can't change your circumstances, you can change how you feel about them. When you change just one thing in your life, your whole world can change. Sometimes we have difficulties making changes in our lives because it means taking risks and experiencing loss. However, when we don't make changes, we forget we have choices.

3. You're aiming for happiness instead of contentment or meaning.

People who find happiness usually describe it as being content or finding meaning in their lives. Being "happy" can be overrated - change your definition of it. Happiness may not mean smiling and feeling "up" every day. Happiness can mean that you give back to others in your community; you have close relationships with others; or you work for a cause you believe in.

4. You rely on others for your happiness.

Life is like a cake. If you have holes in your cake and try to fill those holes with people's approval and love, you will never have a whole cake. However, if you work on having a whole cake on your own, other people become the icing on the cake. How do you work on having a whole cake? Self-reflection, therapy, and meditation are just some of the ways you can work on feeling whole.

5. You have too much stuff.

Studies have found that clutter is associated with increase rates of depression and anxiety, particularly in women. Read more about clutter's relationship to depression and anxiety here. If you have constant visual clutter, it just brings you down. Get tough with yourself about whether you really use the items in your home. Have a trusted friend or family member help you go through your closet, garage, and other areas where clutter has accumulated. The Law of Usage states if you neglect using an item, it tends to run down and break. Give it to someone else who can use it.

6. You are envious of others.

Steve Furtick said, "The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel." What you see on social media are people's highest points. You don't see the day-to-day struggles everyone faces. Everyone has challenges. It's how you perceive your challenges that makes the difference. And that leads us to number 8.

7. You focus on the negative.

Your beliefs about what happens to you greatly influence your consequences. This ties into number 2 above, "You forget you have a choice". You always have a choice on what you are going to focus on. If you step in a puddle on the way to work, you can either curse the storm cloud and think you are incredibly unlucky, or you can say "these things happen" and go about your day. Which choice do you think makes you feel better? The next time you have a negative thought, visualize a stop sign popping up. Now change that negative thought to a positive. The more you practice this technique, the more your brain will automatically think positive thoughts.

8. You don't make time for fun.

If things seem heavy or serious most of the day, it might be that you are not taking enough breaks for just plain fun. Many people think being serious means being solemn - but if you've taught a class you know that people learn more when the material is presented in an enjoyable way. For example, the Broadway show "Hamilton" has taught U.S. and world history through entertainment. For ideas on how to have more fun in your life, see my Psychology Today post "8 Ways to Make Your Life More Fun".

9. You have issues with your neurotransmitters.

You may have inherited genes for depression, anxiety, ADHD, or other issues that impact your levels of neurotransmitters or brain chemicals. Medication has been found to be the most effective treatment for these issues, and a combination of medication and therapy has been found to be more effective than either treatment on their own. See your primary care doctor for a referral, look in the Psychology Today directory, or get referrals from family and friends.

10. You aren't getting enough exercise.

Regular exercise increases low levels of dopamine and serotonin in your brain (the neurotransmitters I told you about in number 9 above). When you increase those low neurotransmitter levels, you reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Even exercising for as little as 20 to 30 minutes a day can help you feel better. Quick ways to get exercise in your workday are to take the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away from your office, and walking instead of taking a moving sidewalk.

Focusing less on pursuing happiness causes it to show up more quickly. Good luck on your journey.

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