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Searching for Happiness Can Become a Barrier to Your Happiness

Huh? Ok, the title of this article may appear somewhat confusing, but let’s try reading it again. Only this time look deeper into what it might mean. I think we can all agree that we not only want our lives to be happy, but that we are all in search of some kind of happiness. I mean, who doesn’t want to be happy?

Happy is subjective, of course. How you define happiness may be different from how I define it. We have all heard the saying that one man’s happiness is another man’s burden.

To me, happiness is an experience, a state of mind or feeling, rather than something tangible that can be held or observed. Since I perceive happiness as an experience, I have control over how often I experience it.

Some people become discouraged because they feel as if they will never “find” happiness. However, contrary to societal belief, happiness is not something to be located or obtained. Happiness, as so many would be inclined to believe, does not come in a material form, nor is it tangible in a sense of being driven or bought.

Happiness is a sense of satisfaction and contentment that is created or designed by you, and you alone. Creating your own happiness is an inside job, which makes it unique and personal to you only.

How can searching for happiness become a barrier to your happiness?

If you function under a strong belief system that an automobile, a home, a mate, a college degree, or a job will bring you happiness; and this is all you focus on achieving by consistently searching for it through external means, as well as holding on to the expectation that once achieved you should feel happy, then disappointment will soon follow.

It is important to recognize that externals can certainly build onto one’s sense of happiness. However, we must acknowledge that externals are impermanent and often have an expiration date. It would not be wise to rely on them for long-term happiness.

Putting all your efforts into external ways of achieving happiness, and less on internal ways of creating your happiness, can get in the way of you ever experiencing happiness. “Internal” is related to your character, the inner-self, your soul. Creating happiness within is a full-time job. It takes a consistent effort to maintain. However, maintaining your happiness is not a burdensome task because the outcome of your efforts tends to lead to a sense of empowerment. This sense of empowerment comes from knowing that you single-handedly designed your own blueprint for long-term happiness.

The way in which you create your internal happiness is psychologically termed behavior activation (BA). Don’t let the psychological jargon scare you. It simply means to take positive action or engage in pleasurable value-based activities that will improve your mood, thereby adding joy to your life.

Behavior Activation is a basic cognitive behavioral therapeutic (CBT) coping strategy that is encouraged for those who struggle with depressed moods or bouts of unhappiness. You don’t need to be suffering from depression to utilize behavior activation. Anyone can benefit from its effects.

The following is a short list of ways in which you can practice behavior activation in the form of pleasurable activities:

  • Reading
  • Writing/journaling
  • Dancing
  • Playing board games
  • Cooking/cleaning
  • Listening to soothing music
  • Going to the gym
  • Traveling
  • Gardening
  • Going to plays/movies
  • Shopping
  • Photography
  • Religion or spirituality

These are some ways in which you can begin to create your own happiness. These are not things that need to be sought, bought, or achieved.

As the Dalai Lama XIV states, “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” All that is necessary is motivation to get up and do it, and the consistency to maintain the process of engaging in activities that bring you long-lasting pleasure.

Searching for Happiness Can Become a Barrier to Your Happiness

Cerena Reid-Maynard, LICSW

Cerena Reid-Maynard, LICSW is a licensed clinical therapist, living in Cranston, RI, employed at an Adult Partial Day program treating adults with personality disorders using group therapy based on the principles of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment). Cerena has a private practice, and is currently in the process of writing her first book based on her life and work experience with the ACT model. If you'd like to learn more about the ACT model and how it can benefit you, feel free to visit her website at:

APA Reference
Reid-Maynard, C. (2018). Searching for Happiness Can Become a Barrier to Your Happiness. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 24 Sep 2018 (Originally: 24 Sep 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 24 Sep 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.