Happiness – it’s the thing we all desire but struggle so hard to find and keep in our lives for a long enough time to enjoy it. But, unfortunately, in the UK in particular, our levels of happiness have decreased from 2016 to 2021 by almost 10%.
In this post, we are going to discuss if it is actually possible to stay happy for a fulfilling length of time, and if yes, how can we achieve this? Is it possible to find long-lasting contentment with your life?
Why do we find it so hard to stay happy?
The answer to why we find it so hard to stay happy can be found in the things we associate with happiness. That is, do we rely on outside factors to make us happy, or are we able to find our own happiness?
The UK has quite a “success mentality” culture. We tend to base our worth and subsequent happiness on our accomplishments. Whether we succeeded at landing our dream job, how much money we are making, the grades we get at school… our happiness is strongly tied to the outcomes of our life goals.
The problem with this mentality is that it assumes that you will achieve everything you have ever wanted if you work hard enough. That the only obstacle in life is you. This way of thinking is known in psychology as a strong internal locus of control. That is, you believe you can influence everything that happens to you. It doesn’t take into account the outside influences that may affect your success outcomes, even if you do a “perfect” job.
You might be out-interviewed by a more experienced candidate, your grade may be dropped due to the grading curves used in national examinations, and there will always be someone rich enough to make you feel like your wealth isn’t good enough (unless you’re someone like Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates, but we won’t go into that!).
Other factors that can change your opportunities for success include gender, race, disability, socio-economic background, early education experiences, and family dynamics.
So, you see, pinning your happiness on your success does not guarantee happiness. And we are all worthy of having happiness whether we feel we have reached our goals or not.
In fact, finding happiness in your life will help you reach your goals, not the other way around. So how do we know what parts of life will provide us with happiness that lasts for a while, and which only provide happiness for a few moments?
What is the difference between instant gratification and lasting happiness?
Social media and streaming platforms have ruined our patience and attention abilities. We’ve gone from sitting through adverts between our favourite shows and having to wait for someone to answer the phone (or meet them in person) to find out how they are to being able to watch content ad-free and connect with people in an instant at the touch of a finger.
Add to that online shopping, food delivery, and swapping taking money out of the bank for credit cards, and you’ve got a recipe for extreme ease that requires little to no effort or time-wasting.
And while these things can be great tools for social connection and time saving, they’ve bred a new need for instant gratification.
We’ve started to find happiness in buying clothes online, ordering a takeaway on Deliveroo, or playing online casino games. And each click of a button hits us with an instant dopamine boost that brings us great happiness…for a couple of minutes.
The problem is, to keep the happiness going, you need to repeat the action. And that can ultimately lead to financial, social, and health problems. It can also lead to anxiety, depression, and addiction in some cases.
On the other hand, lasting happiness relies on small actions repeated frequently that are easy to do and bring a deeper sense of happiness. They release serotonin into the body, which is a more steady happy hormone that doesn’t peak and drop so abruptly.
So, how can you find long-lasting happiness and avoid the traps of instant gratification?
Three ways to make your contentment last for a fulfilling length of time
Keep a gratitude journal
We tend to focus more on the negative than the positive in our daily life. As the saying goes, it takes five good things to counteract one bad thing.
By keeping a gratitude journal and logging three to five things you are grateful for every day, you’ll start to cultivate an abundance mindset and realise that your life is actually much more fulfilled than you had previously thought, whether you have achieved your goals or not.
Find joy in the simple things
We’ve talked about the pitfalls of relying on external success and instant gratification to keep you happy. But happiness doesn’t have to come from big life events; we can find happiness in the mundane.
So, learn to start paying attention to the little things that bring you joy. The first coffee of the morning. A cuddle with your partner. An inside joke shared with a friend. The smell of the summer breeze.
When you learn to find happiness in everyday occurrences, life gets better, and you will feel happier for longer.
Learn to live in the moment
Psychologists have a phrase they love to tell their patients:
“Anxiety comes from living in the future, and depression comes from living in the past.”
We spend so much time worrying about the future or regretting the past that we miss what’s happening right now.
When we learn to be present, stress, anxiety, and depression start to disappear, and so naturally, happiness becomes more abundant. Contentment comes from when we appreciate what we have in the present moment, and through contentment, happiness can follow more easily.
Final thoughts on Happiness
Don’t fall into the pit traps of relying on instant gratification or reaching “success” to bring you happiness.
The world is full of small pleasures to be enjoyed every minute. And once you learn to open your mind and notice them, you’ll find yourself enjoying a deeper sense of happiness that lasts for a long time!