The Key to Happiness May be Right Under Your Nose if You Stop Doing This

A man stands in a office as his work colleagues walk around their office.
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If social media and self-help books are any indication, nearly everyone is pursuing happiness in one form or another.

Society tells us that to be happy, all we need to do is earn more than $75,000 per year,  carve out more time for ourselves each day, achieve Instagram nirvana or renovate our homes to perfection.

According to a new study titled “Vanishing Time in the Pursuit of Happiness,” published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, spending time pursuing happiness actually creates a happiness deficit.

The study’s researchers call it “altering time scarcity.” Here’s how it works.

Think about the writer who wrote “only” six pages instead of meeting a weekly goal of 10, or the dieter who lost “only” three pounds this month instead of the hoped-for eight.

Rather than value the progress we make toward our goals, however slight, we double down on our efforts to reach them by allocating even more time toward their pursuit.

Researchers concluded that people who relentlessly chase happiness may find themselves in a “resource-limited state (a never-ending series of happiness-seeking demands on their time), which may well lead to a sense of not having enough of that very resource (i.e., time).”

The antidote, according to the researchers, is to “worry less about pursuing happiness as a never-ending goal” and instead focus on spending more time “engaging in experiences and savoring the associated feelings.”

The next time you feel like your goals are always out of reach, spend some time with friends or family, or maybe sign up to volunteer with your favorite cause.

You may discover the key to happiness has been right under your nose the whole time.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s really happy.