Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


5 Ways Some People Prevent Themselves from Being Happy

Happiness is less about circumstances and more about mindset.

Source: Suchota/Shutterstock

As a therapist, I often work with people who are struggling to deal with tragic circumstances or traumatic events. But I've also worked with many individuals who struggled to feel good even when good things happened to them. For one reason or another, they just couldn't allow themselves to be happy.

Whether they couldn't celebrate a promotion, or their good fortune created more anxiety, they couldn't accept joy. And often, they asked questions like, "Why can't I just be happy now that I got what I wanted?"

It wasn't their situations making them unhappy — it was their mindsets. I've discovered there are five common beliefs that cause people to feel bad even when good things happen.

1. Whenever something good happens, something bad follows.

Have you ever come into good fortune only to think you're going to get hit by a bus at any minute? It's impossible to revel in your joy if you're waiting for the other shoe to drop. But many people insist it's not possible for good things to happen without something bad happening too.

Waiting for something bad to happen is anxiety-provoking, yet many individuals fully expect something is going to rob them of their good fortune at any given second.

2. I don't deserve this.

It's hard to celebrate your success when you feel unworthy of your achievement. Perhaps you inherited some money, or maybe you've started a new relationship that just feels too good to be true.

Or maybe you think your boss overestimated your abilities when you got that promotion. No matter the reasons, thinking you don't deserve to be happy will certainly prevent you from embracing joy.

3. This won't last.

The more you have, the more you have to lose. So whether you're worried your financial luck is about to run out, or you think your business success is waning, assuming your good fortune can't possibly last will make you worry so much about the future that you can't enjoy the present.

This mindset can easily turn your dream into a nightmare. After all, who wants to revel in their glory when they expect the rug to be pulled out from under them at any second?

4. It's not as good as I expected.

Thinking that you'll have more friends when you lose weight, or expecting that people will respect you when you get a promotion, can lead to disappointment. Reaching a goal might not necessarily solve the problems you wanted to fix.

Unrealistic expectations about how good you'll feel when something good happens can lead to unhappiness. It's important to enjoy your success, while also recognizing that positive events won't cure everything.

5. It's not enough.

No matter what you've been given or what you've earned, many individuals fall into the trap of believing they need just a little bit more.

If I just had a little bit more money, I could relax. If I just got to the next rung of the corporate ladder, I'd be successful. The "it's not enough" mentality will prevent you from savoring the moment.

How to Change Your Mindset

If you've caught yourself struggling to accept joy when something good happens, change your mindset. Take a deep breath, and remind yourself that it's OK to be happy with what you have right now.

There's no need to postpone your happiness. Celebrate your accomplishments, revel in joyful circumstances, and embrace bliss whenever you can.

This article previously appeared on

More from Amy Morin
More from Psychology Today