Want to Be Happy? Quit Sprinting Down the Road to Happiness

Hello, everybody, and welcome to my first official installment of How to Live a Blissful Life. If I weren’t in such an atrocious mood, I’d be happy to be here, but unfortunately, I’m in a bit of a tizzy. For the better part of a day, I’ve been hacking my way through the unforgiving jungle of my mind with my machete of words in order to deliver you something brilliant for this inaugural post. About an hour ago, I punctuated my final sentence and gave the piece I’d just barely conquered a once over. It was bad. It was really, really bad. It was drowning in inauthenticity and pretension, and I wouldn’t have let you touch it with a 10-foot stick. 

Agitation Nation

Like any good American, I decided that the remedy for my, by then, hyper-inflamed central nervous system was to go buy things. I stuffed my feet in my shoes and my key in the ignition and took to the streets like Mad Max. I frowned at a baby. I nearly ran over an elderly woman, and it was only half-accidental. I purchased my items from Bed, Bath, and Beyond with a grimace on my face and felt none-the-better for it. 

And then I realized the irony. In my effort to write the perfect introductory post about living a blissful life, I’d erased all semblance of bliss in my day. Chasing a rainbow, I’d created a storm.

Want to Be Happy? Ease Off

The post I wrote earlier was all about how to begin a search for happiness, and there’s probably redeemable material in there. What my meltdown today demonstrated, though, points to a better starting place. If you’re reading these words because you’re struggling to find joy or you think you could have a more blissful life than the one you currently inhabit, know this: you can’t muscle your way into happiness. 

Our culture doesn’t want you to know this. If you know this, you stop buying meditation apps and joining January fitness challenges, and throwing cash at self-help books with titles about how awesome you could be if only you knew what its pages contained. There are powerful interests out there that want to keep you believing that bliss can be bought and that happiness is a neighborhood you can live in if you just work hard enough for it. The truth is that The Good Life can’t be achieved by force. 

So, quit forcing it. I have no authority on living a blissful life. The heights my blood pressure reached today make that laughably obvious. I’m not going to force myself to be something I’m not, and I’m not going to pretend that you can force your way into being happy. There might be a few tweaks you can make here and there, but the most important thing I’m likely to say all year is this: stop trying so hard. Happiness isn’t elusive—it just doesn’t want to be chased.

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