Happiness: A Practice or a Destination?
According to research in positive psychology and happiness, a happy individual is the one who frequently experiences positive emotions such as interest, pride, and joy whereas he/she rarely experiences anxiety, sadness, and anger. Happiness has also been associated with satisfaction in life, appreciation of life, and moments of pleasure.
This being said, a happy person is someone who experiences all types of emotions, but they come into contact with fewer negative emotions due to different way of processing them or because they are capable of finding a meaning in a way others are not. Hence, it does not necessarily mean that a happy individual is naturally happy or has a more positive experience in life, as noted on Psychology Today, but it is more associated with their response to the inevitable stress in life.
With this in mind, and with the variety of definitions that exist on happiness, it becomes quite essential to ask ourselves if happiness is something that we will get to once we achieve specific goals or something that we are able to practice daily.
The “Addiction to Destination”
“Destination addiction” refers to the preoccupation with the thinking that happiness is located in the next job, next partner, or next place you go to. According to Mark D. Griffiths from Psychology Today, this term was created by Dr. Robert Holden, a psychologist, back in 2011; in his book, Holden discussed how people “suffer” from finding happiness and success in the future and how they spend their lives on getting a “ticket” for the future. Consequently, they forget to live in the moment and take everything they currently have for granted. Certainly, happiness cannot happen where you are until you stop thinking that you will find it elsewhere.
He further emphasized how the constant pursuit of happiness prevents us from enjoying the moment and relaxing, without rushing to “get there”. This may often lead to a permanent feeling of dissatisfaction because all of our efforts are focused on procuring this state of bliss without actually being aware of the right way to do it. These are the type of people who “cannot wait for Friday”.
The most Common “Symptoms” of Destination Addiction
According to Holden, these are the most common traits of people who are in a constant pursuit of happiness:
- Regardless of what they are doing, they are always thinking about what will happen next
- They cannot stop because they need to be in another place all the time
- Even where there is no need to, they are in a hurry
- They promise to be less busy the year to come
- Their dream home is the next home they are thinking of buying
- They dislike their job; but they hold on to it because it has good prospects for the future
- They hope that the next success to come will finally make them happy
- They have little time to enjoy their life because of their numerous plans and projections for the future
Why Is the Pursuit for Happiness an Obstacle to actual Happiness?
This type of behavior, as Holden notes, does not leave space to indulge in our experiences and it tricks us into believing that life is all about endings. These people think that living faster and constantly seeking something will help them enjoy life more and finally find happiness; however, they only manage to miss out on chances for improvement and finding their purpose in life. Instead, they need to be more concentrated on making every moment the ending they have been searching for and vice versa. Genuine happiness can be found in every moment, Holden concludes.
Happiness in the Now
According to Joseph Hart from Experience Life, despite spending a large part of their lives chasing happiness, for a lot of people, it stays elusive. This is why we need to redirect the focus from hoping for it to learning and practicing it with the aim to create our own happiness in the now. This being said, Hart shares the five major conclusions drawn from studies done on happiness that could serve as principles that we need to act upon the sooner the better.
- Better your thoughts
According to Andrew Shatte, a psychologist at the Pennsylvania University in Philadelphia, our feelings stem from our habits of thinking, i.e. if we think we are not as good as others, we are going to be sad, if we think we are going to lose, we become embarrassed, etc. and in a lot of cases, these thoughts turn out to be inaccurate, making thinking the only fault. Shatte concludes that those who are able to reflect on their inexact emotions and beliefs and accept them as such can elevate their happiness and feel less negatively affected by them.
- More money does not mean more happiness
Even though money helps in securing the precursors to happiness like food and warmth, research indicates that meaningful relationships with family and friends and caring for other people, beside ourselves, play a vital role too. Hence, missing out these connections in your life can make you feel unhappy and there is no amount of money that can be of help. Additionally, materialism has been shown to significantly decrease one’s happiness, according to Hart.
- Immerse in what you do
Being fully absorbed in a specific activity to the extent of not even knowing you exist and not thinking that you are happy at the time is a genuine happy moment that you will look back on and wish you could have stayed in it forever. Entering this “state of flow” requires from you to be present at the moment and filled with problem-solving behavior. To enter it, before you begin some activity, tell yourself you will do it the best you can, as Hart denotes.
- Nourish relationships
As seen on Experience Life, research has shown that the happiest people have one thing in common, i.e. social relationships and they are known to cultivate friendships or are in a commited relationship or married. It is crucial pointing out that the number of friends is not so decisive for one’s level of happpiness, but it is more the socializing and interaction that made a difference.
- Practice virtues
Newest studies suggest that people who were more grateful and forgiving reported feeling more satisfied and consequently, happier. This being said, happiness is associated not with just how you feel, but what you are doing for others.
Final Thoughts on Happiness
Although setting goals and achieving dreams in our lives is what moves us forward and what contributes to the meaning and purpose of our existence, this behavior should not be understood as the sole formula for happiness and satisfaction in life.
Surely, you will enjoy that long-awaited vacation or feel great about your new car, but, constantly believing that you will reach happiness once you do this or that may turn you into the type of person who is “addicted to destination”, but is actually getting nowhere and forgets to enjoy in the happiness of the present moment. Being genuinely happy in the now is always possible- you can feel it more frequently with the help of a positive mindset, quality time spent with family, and friends, and practicing virtues and being there for others.