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Escape the Unhappiness Trap


We are a culture driven by the motto “more is better.” If we turn on the television or glance over at the magazines at the checkout line in any grocery store, we see the sensational “bling” and the “more” we are looking for.

Our minds automatically say, “If I just had a bigger house, a partner, more money, a snow cone, etc., then I’d be happy.”

Waltor Landor accurately said, “As soon as we wish to be happier, we are no longer happy.”

But from time to time we’ve heard this notion before, so why do we keep falling into this unhappiness trap, what’s wrong with us? 

The fact is it’s not our fault that we keep falling into it. From the time we’re born until this moment right now our brain is continually taking information in as a means to make decisions in the present moment and anticipate the future. It’s wired to make us secure and comfortable.

As long as we can see and hear it’s impossible to ignore the commercials and bill boards that tell us we’ll gain more social acceptance and be happier if we have their products. The brain references it’s hierarchy of needs and says, “Yes, social belonging is fundamental so I guess I do need that.”

The brain makes thousands of calculations like this each day and drives our snap judgments about what to pay attention to and what actions to take.

Companies on the internet know this that’s why there is an entire industry that plays on our subconscious strategies to get us to feel compelled to feel like we need to buy certain things.

But the fact is, thousands of years of experience and all the world’s wisdom traditions keep telling us that more isn’t better. Contentment lies in being okay with what you have.

This isn’t an anti-capitalism blog, it’s an emotional freedom blog. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong to strive to make a lot of money and we don’t need to feel guilty for buying new things, it’s just that we don’t need to be enslaved by the current that is pushing us to do it at the expense of our happiness.  

Escaping this unhappiness trap will be a lifelong dance, so forgive yourself when you notice you’ve fallen in and in that moment of awareness ask yourself, “What am I grateful for,” shifting the focus to being content with what you have. Take this awareness into the days that follow.

Remember Waltor Landor’s words, “As soon as we wish to be happier, we are no longer happy.”

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Man wearing bling image available from Shutterstock.

Escape the Unhappiness Trap

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is creator of the six month online program A Course in Mindful Living, author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind, the premier eCourse Basics of Mindfulness Meditation: A 28 Day Program, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join The Now Effect Community for free Daily Now Moments and a Weekly Newsletter. Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles.

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APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2013). Escape the Unhappiness Trap. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Aug 2013
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