Pursuing happiness leaves you stressed

Everyone has goals in life – from career to fitness to personal life. Hashtags with goals are a hit on Instagram, like, #couplegoals, #fitnessgoals, #lifegoals… the list is endless. But all these goals have one thing in common. We pursue them in the hope of achieving happiness.


The first mistake we make — which leaves us feeling low — is that we often confuse happiness with pleasure. Our addiction to social media, and its constant affirmations, read ‘like’, retweets, compliments etc., have made us believe that the pleasure derived out of being complimented is happiness. So, any deviation from that makes us feel low.

We have all read enough to know that happiness cannot be a constant in anyone’s life. While pursuing pleasure can be a daily exercise, happiness is a long-term goal.

Now, let’s try and understand this difference from the perspective of our brains. Our brains process these two distinctly different feelings in different ways.

Pursuing pleasure activates the centres of our brain that control the production of dopamine (a chemical directly linked to addiction). For example, getting likes on a social media post pumps dopamine through our system. It also activates our “fight or flight” centre, so adrenaline is coursing through you as well. Sounds great, right? The problem is, to achieve the same high the next time, you will need a higher dose of dopamine.

The end result? If you don’t have enough dopamine (read likes, shares, retweets), you start feeling low.

Happiness, however, is caused by serotonin, not dopamine. Serotonin is regulated by different parts of the brain altogether. Unlike dopamine, serotonin is more constant. You don’t need higher doses of it to feel happy.


As far as our brain function goes, serotonin, which gives you a feeling of long-term happiness and contentment, is always overshadowed by dopamine – the hits. More so, these ‘hits’ of pleasure simultaneously reduce our serotonin levels, thereby decreasing our sense of well-being. Basically, the more you seek pleasure, the less happy you eventually become.

This is why studies have shown that people who spend lots of time on social media platforms are more likely to be clinically depressed as compared to those who spend less time on it.


In our relentless pursuit of happiness, we forget that it’s just like any other emotion – sadness, fear, disgust, anger... Just like they come and go, happiness too cannot be a constant. We deceive ourselves chasing constant happiness. Human beings aren’t designed to be happy all the time. And it’s normal.


  • Disconnect from social media every day
  • Put your phone away for a designated amount of time each day
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Think beyond yourself and your own desires. Do things that bring happiness to people you care for
  • Find a way to contribute to a social cause or volunteer work
  • Help your neighbour water her plants… do anything that will bring a smile to faces other than your own
  • Build a sense of community around you. As social animals we fare much better when we are surrounded by well-meaning people. And this involves talking and interacting with people in the real world

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