Why the Pursuit of Happiness Isn’t Selfish
Magazine / Why the Pursuit of Happiness Isn’t Selfish

Why the Pursuit of Happiness Isn’t Selfish

Why the Pursuit of Happiness Isn’t Selfish

When people think about wanting to be happier they often confront these questions:

  1. In a world so full of suffering is it morally appropriate to seek to be happier?

  2. I already have all the elements of a happy life — if I’m not happy, or I want to be happier, am I acting like a spoiled brat?

When researching and writing her #1 New York Times bestseller, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin found herself grappling with these same questions herself. She also ran into them when explaining her project to others; frequently, she was confronted with words like “selfish,” “smug,” “self-centered,” “pointless,” or she was asked if she was “unhappy.”

Yet Gretchen’s research uncovered exactly the opposite: Both ancient philosophers and modern scientists have found that the pursuit of personal happiness is actually a very selfless goal. In a world filled with suffering, Gretchen explains, we need people to be happier because happy people help to make other people happy. Also, when you’re happy, the characteristics of generosity, patience, forgiveness, energy, and lightheartedness come more naturally.

One additional, socially valuable result of pursuing happiness is that happy people find it much easier to be good people. Research shows that happy people tend to be more altruistic, productive, helpful, likable, creative, resilient, friendly, healthy and interested in others (just to name a few.) They even make better friends, colleagues, and citizens as they’re more likely to volunteer, donate money, or help out when seeing that someone is in need.

So while striving to be happy may sound like a self-focused act, it’s not at all. And one of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy, while one the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself. It’s like a cycle of happiness karma, so keep spreading those happy vibes around!

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