Why a Harvard Psychologist Doesn't Want You to Try to Be Happy

Updated 03/26/18
@freddieharrel

Most people accept the notion that happiness is fleeting, yet we still strive for this elusive feeling in our everyday lives. Sure there are activities, people, and places that can bring joy into your life, but according to Susan David, Ph.D., a psychologist at Harvard Medical school and author of Emotional Agility, the key to happiness is not trying at all.

David recently divulged a bit of her wisdom to Business Insider, explaining that happiness is about "showing up" to your emotions. "What I mean by 'showing up' is stopping any struggle that you might have within yourself about whether you should feel something, shouldn't feel something, should think something, shouldn't think something, whether it's a bad thought or good thought," she says.

With this in mind, it seems that letting go of expectations of what happiness (or any emotion, for that matter) should look like in your life is vital for truly experiencing what we want most. "When we have a particular goal around happiness, what it can lead us to doing is marking every disappointment, every setback, every concern as being proof that we're not happy enough or almost proof that we've failed in our attempt to be happy. And it's just not a realistic way of living," David continues.

Instead of focusing on what might make you happy, allow yourself to let go and simply feel whatever it is you feel. The acceptance and mindfulness of all emotions could be what allows you to feel more genuine happiness throughout your life. Read up on David's ideas in her book Emotional Agility and head to Business Insider for more of her thoughts on happiness.

Up next: This is what a neuroscientist does to boost happiness.

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