Why It’s Hard to be Happy

Humans never evolved to achieve happiness. If you’re not naturally great at making your life happy, it’s not your fault.

Contemporary America is smitten with the subject of happiness. More books are being written about it every week. Talk shows are full of so-called experts telling you what you should do to become more content and satisfied. Most advertising is about little else. Ten percent of Americans take anti-depressant pills to lift their mood.

The problem is, feeling good is not one of our core strengths. We evolved to be good at other stuff, like survival, social skills and continuity of the species. Happiness was never a part of the process.

If you wonder why you haven’t solved the happiness puzzle and continue to struggle to feel good about your life, it’s no surprise. You are trying to do something you are only poorly equipped by evolution to do. Besides, happiness is a by-product of life working out the way you want. You can’t get there by trying.

There are skills each of us can learn to feel better more of the time. The Positive Psychology movement has been particularly good at guiding us toward a greater sense of well-being. If you’re interested, read the books of Martin Seligman and others and practice what they suggest.

Just don’t think there is something wrong if you’re not especially happy a lot of the time. Evolution, like most people you meet, doesn’t care about your feelings. If you care about being happy, it’s up to you to figure out how.

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