The search for happiness is universally human—we all spend our lives checking off certain boxes in an attempt to find a sense of confidence and fulfillment. But while the road to happiness is paved with good intentions, focusing solely on oneself in an effort to "find happiness from within" can hedge its way into narcissism territory.
"The problem with the relentless quest for self-knowledge and inward focus is that it can become an excuse for self-interest and even narcissism," writes Samantha Boardman, MD, a psychiatrist from Harvard University. "Don't get me wrong; it is important to take care of ourselves … but too much emphasis on the self can lead us astray."
Boardman argues that focusing on oneself "undermines happiness and well-being" in the long run, and instead, reaching outward is the secret. She cites research from Psychological Science, which found that the happiest people have close ties to friends and family, as opposed to a developed sense of self.
"People who connect with other human beings, even strangers on a train or in the checkout line, report brighter moods," she points out. "Behavioral scientists call this 'social snacking,' and it may just be the healthiest snack in the world." In short, "the key is to actively seek pathways that will help us transcend ourselves and escape the echo chamber of our minds," she concludes. "As tempting as it is to dive inward, make it a priority to connect, to interact, and to add value."
Head over to MindBodyGreen for more from Boardman.