Most of us think “If I only had this or that, then I’d be happy!”
But the thing is that many of the things that we think will give us joy actually don’t. In fact, many of them will actually make us miserable.
Want to know what they are?
Here are 10 things in life that won’t actually make you happier.
Okay, so of course we all know that not having enough money is stressful. It’s hard to be happy when you’re in poverty, living paycheck to paycheck.
And of course when you’re that short on money, an extra $1000 or even $10 to your income will definitely make you happy.
But see, while money does buy you comfort, you should avoid equating money with happiness itself. Research found that people who specifically equate money with happiness are more unhappy than those who don’t.
And that’s because they stress themselves out chasing after more and more money, not realizing that they already have more than enough for an easy life.
In doing so, they, unfortunately, neglect the things that will actually give them genuine joy and satisfaction.
Let’s be real—almost all of us must have dreamt of becoming famous. I mean, fame’s awesome. Who doesn’t want it?
If you’re an artist or an average office worker, for example, fame would mean recognition and validation. It’s a sign that people like what you’re doing… so of course, fame is always a plus.
However, fame comes with its own set of cons.
First, you’ll feel pressured to maintain it…and even surpass yourself!
Second, you’ll be focused on getting validation instead of actually enjoying what you’re doing for sheer pleasure.
And third, the more people see and know you, the more scrutiny and criticism you’ll face from them, even if they don’t know who you really are.
So if you’re not into these things, fame will definitely not make you any happier. In fact, it could make you miserable.
3) Parental approval
We all have the drive to win our parents’ approval, and this desire is especially strong if you’ve been raised by a narcissist.
And when we fail to meet their expectations of us or win their approval, we can’t help but be burdened by guilt.
Many of us have come to believe that the solution to this guilt—and the thing that will give us happiness—is to hear our parents tell us how proud they are of us.
That is rarely the case.
At the very least, it’s not the case when your dreams and aspirations are either contrary to your parents’ desires, or shaped by them.
Live just to earn your parents’ decision and you’ll end up neglecting to understand who you truly are and to live the life that truly makes you happy.
You don’t want to be one of those people who are already in their fifties and are still blaming their parents for pressuring them to make certain decisions.
4) Free time
Like with money and other things in this list, it’s a matter of having too much or too little.
A study correlated happiness and wellbeing to free time, but only to a certain extent. Having too much or too little free time can both make anyone a bit unhappy.
You need enough free time to enjoy life, but at the same time if all you have is free time you’ll end up being restless and listless.
So before you decide on “quitting your job to do nothing” because you’re bored with your job or you’re overworked, think again.
Chances are that you won’t really enjoy that free time you get once you have too much of it.
5) Having children
A lot of people like to say that the ultimate happiness is found in having a big and happy family, and that childless adults are doomed to being forever unhappy.
But this is far from the case. The fact is that while there are people who find joy and satisfaction in having and caring for children, plenty of us would rather be raked over hot coals than have a child.
Both parents and non-parents actually have very similar levels of overall happiness according to this study.
And if you’re ever having kids, remember that your children are human beings in their own right. They aren’t there to serve as your emotional support, or as future investment.
When you have kids, it should not be because you think having a family will give you satisfaction. It should be because you want to have a kid, burdens and all.
6) More Intelligence
Intelligence is a curse. Ernest Hemingway once said that happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing he knows—and there’s a reason for that.
Intelligent people have to deal with people expecting more of them, and even they might come to set standards on themselves that are higher than are reasonable.
They will also be more aware of how flawed and illogical the world is. They are reminded every time they get into an argument with others that some people simply can’t see what they’re seeing.
And they also get to be more aware of and be enraged by the many injustices in life that other people have simply come to accept.
If you want to be smarter, by all means try—read, eat well, and practice critical thinking. But beware that more intelligence doesn’t mean more happiness.
7) Being closer to family
Even if they’re toxic, that is.
Look, family is irreplaceable and sticking with your family is generally a good idea. But at the same time, you should not feel obligated to stick to your family if it’s toxic.
If you have a mother who keeps shutting you down and blaming you for everything or a dad who would hit you with a belt or slap you when they’re mad, you’re best off not associating with them.
You may feel like you “owe” it to them to stay with them and endure them at their worst because they raised you or brought you to the hospital when you were sick, but if it’s wearing down on your mental health, you’re better off staying away.
Sex is great, but honestly people hype it up way too much.
They put so much of their self-worth on it and act like it’s a basic requirement for their quality of life.
But again, like most things in this list, it can’t make you any happier as long as you already have enough of it.
In fact, having too much sex can actually start to bore you, and it turns from a fun activity you share with your partner into an obligation you need to fulfill.
Quality is definitely better than quantity. Instead of trying to have as much sex as possible, try to instead space it out and try to find new ways to spice it up every time.
9) Long-term vacations
We all need vacations. But the thing with vacations is that longer is not always better—you’re better off using your vacation days for many smaller breaks scattered throughout the year than a single long break once a year.
Every person has their own optimal vacation length, but for most people, a study says it’s about eight days. This is the point when days start to blur.
Try to find your optimal vacation length, and try not to go past that. It might not make you unhappy to have more vacation days, but they won’t add that much to your overall happiness either.
10) So many choices
Having too many choices might seem like a blessing, but studies show that having too much choice can actually make us unhappy.
Just take a look at our dating culture. Getting in touch with another and finding love has never been easier, thanks to the internet.
And yet people have more trouble finding the one for them now more than ever.
The fact that it’s easy to get in touch with people you think you might like gives people the idea that the perfect match is just a swipe away.
So when things go a bit south with someone who they thought was a good match, they will think “what if I swiped a bit more?”
This is called the paradox of choice. Having too many choices for us to sort through can make us a bit less content with what we have, even when what we already have is “good enough.”
Society likes to tell us that we need this or that to be happy, or that we need more. It’s actually quite maddening!
Whether something will make you happy is a personal question that only you can answer. And to answer that you need to think about whether you truly do desire something, or if you’re simply repeating what you’ve been told.
A good rule of thumb, at the very least, is that for most things, we all could use moderation. Having enough of something is good, having too much of a good thing is bad. Achieving happiness can be as simple as that.