Stop Trying to Be Happy: Do This Instead

We all have days when we feel a little down in the dumps, right? We feel unhappy, unmotivated or simply that something is “off” about our day. We want to feel happy everyday, but that doesn’t often feel very easy.

We tell ourselves that everything will get better… and that, if we just try to be happy and power through, that happiness will just fall into place.

On Episode 079 of Productivity Paradox this week—in light of the start of Season 7 which is all about cultivating happiness through productivity, we will be talking about the concept of choosing happiness rather than trying to cultivate happiness in all of the wrong places, especially during those moments when we just feel downright lousy.

Today, I thought I might let you in on the one little secret when it comes to cultivating happiness everyday… Trying to be happy just doesn’t work! It’s important that we learn how to look within ourselves for happiness instead.



Often when get the idea in our head that we need to “try to be happy,” we find ourselves bottling our negative emotions up or ignoring them altogether. And coincidentally, we never actually do anything to resolve the discomfort that we feel, which means that all of those uncomfortable feelings are left in limbo… leaving our unhappiness bubbling just beneath the surface.

To avoid perpetual discontent, it’s important that we show up and sit with the uncomfortable emotions we often try to avoid (like unhappiness), so that we can instead learn how to work through them just like we would any positive emotion… Showing up to our emotions not only fosters more self-awareness, but it also gives us perspective so that we can learn to see and understand our emotions from a different point of view.



So how do we do this? Mindfulness. While you don’t have to start a meditation practice to become more mindful (though if you’d like to, we talked about it in Episode 076), the idea is to learn how to be open to what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling on a regular basis.

And if meditation isn’t for you, then taking a quiet walk outside is a great way to give yourself space to reflect too! Simply tuning in to your emotions on those bad days can help you to get in touch with the root cause of your unhappiness, giving you the tools that you need to overcome it in the future.

You can feel all the feelings you need to feel… but the point is to realize that we have the power to shift our thoughts (and therefore our emotions) to process what we experience mindfully, rather than stuffing it down and suffering in our unhappiness.

How can you start conquering your unhappiness? Simple: Stop trying to prevent it in the first place! It’s easy to tell ourselves that we need to stop thinking negatively, or that our problems are only going to get worse the more that we dwell on them… But instead of constantly trying to talk yourself out of experiencing a troubling emotion, sit with it for a moment and see what it has to say.


TIPS FOR INCREASING HAPPINESS – without constantly trying!:

  • I encourage you to treat yourself just as you would a friend that’s having a rough day… Whenever you start to feel a little unhappy, ask yourself what advice you might give your best friend who’s feeling the same way? Reflect on the advice that you already have deep in your heart and apply that advice to yourself.
  • If you are someone who enjoys writing, keeping a journal is another great way to reflect on your emotions… Research suggests that writing in a personal journal for just 15 minutes each day can lead to a boost in happiness and well-being due in part to the fact that it allows us to express ourselves and our emotions while being mindful of our circumstances.
    Journaling is also a great way to rewrite our own story whenever we are feeling unhappy with the course we’ve set… Because, let’s be honest, sometimes our inner critic doesn’t always get it right!By writing and rewriting our own stories, we have the power to change our perspective of ourselves and to become aware of any stumbling blocks or other obstacles that stand in the way of our own happiness and well-being. Not only that, but studies also show that writing and rewriting your story can help shift your mindset from a negative to a positive view of life overall—and that’s got to be a great thing, right?
  • Controlled breathing is another great exercise that you can employ whenever you’re feeling a little blue and need to turn the situation on its head. In fact, research has shown that breathing practices can help reduce symptoms common to anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, depression and ADD, to name a few. For hundreds of years, yogis and yoginis have used breath control (called “Pranayama”) to promote concentration, to improve vitality, and as a way to reach enlightenment—which is considered to be the ultimate source of the happiness and contentment that we all seek… Try it!

I hope this post has helped you learn a few ways to be happy every day. The goal is to just be, rather than constantly trying to be happy, because your life is going to have both bad and good emotions… And that’s OK! You can’t just focus on being happy and expect to have a well-rounded life, you need to continue to look inward and assess how you feel each step along the way in order to cultivate happiness for yourself in the future…


Have a few tips and tricks that have helped you overcome unhappiness in your own life? I would love for you to tell me about them in the comments below!

And if you’re interested in learning a little bit more about the concept of choosing happiness, as well as a few strategies that you can use to cultivate happiness in different areas of your life, I encourage you to check out Episode 079 of Productivity Paradox as we kick off the new season!


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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton