How To Unlock The Barriers To Happiness

At what point do we lose our ability to experience happiness and joy with ease?

I want you to think about a field trip you took as a child, whether it was the zoo, a farm park, or a literal farm! It doesn’t particularly matter where that group of children is taken, they manage to have fun. Absolutely everything they see makes them overwhelmingly happy. 

Almost every moment of the day they find something to be joyful about. Contrast this with the adult faces that surround you during your workday. Those faces used to be much younger, and when they were, they had a capacity for joy just like children on a field trip. 

Unfortunately, there are barriers to happiness. The older we get, the more barriers seem to crop up, and sadly, we let it happen! 

There is a popular belief that children laugh as many as 300 times a day, whereas adults only laugh a handful of times. There is no research available to prove whether that is accurate, but if you think about how often you laugh versus how often the children in your life laugh… then you know children likely do laugh more, whether 300 is accurate or not. I want to join you on your journey to unlocking the barriers to happiness. 

Health writer Annie Stuart suggests that sometimes while we try to achieve happiness, we are actually having the opposite effect. This may be because we are confused about what will really make us happy and we ultimately end up with something  that does not make us happy. Sometimes a huge goal achieved does not lead to happiness. 

Happiness is not fame, fortune, or success within a certain field. If you ask an actor at what point they felt like they had achieved all their dreams they will likely say they have not yet. If you achieve something you may feel fleeting happiness but then your mind may turn to “What can I get next?” This is why happiness needs to be about who you are, not what you have. In order to achieve personal happiness, you need to break down some barriers.

1| Expectations 

Whether it’s your own expectations or the expectations of others, those unrealistic little annoyances often stand in our way. You don’t have to be gleeful 24/7 but finding satisfaction with life is what happiness is. It isn’t all or nothing, but when our focus is on fulfilling unrealistic expectations, it becomes impossible to find contentment. 

2| Contempt 

There is some part of us, as a nation, that holds contempt for happiness. We somehow got the idea that we should be miserable and shun good things until we complete a big goal and then happiness is allowed. Let me tell you something, you’re allowed to be happy all the time, you just have to create that happiness. 

When we encounter someone, who seems happy all the time we shake our heads and dismiss them as being naive or disconnected. We want people to be likable and then gasp at their audacity for being genuinely happy! 

3| Other People

Dealing with others is tough, especially when your parents shake their heads and say we just want you to be happy. Read between the lines and what they’re actually saying is I wanted this specific thing for you and I am now disappointed that you did something else. Then there are your friends, the people who are supposed to support you through everything. 

Sometimes they’re so miserable they don’t want you to be happy. Or a colleague who has decided to dislike you and goes out of their way to make it so. Other people are absolutely big barriers to happiness… sometimes they just want someone to join them in their misery. 

Other people can also include the media or wider society. It’s constant bad news that gets repeated every hour until you go to sleep. It can be incredibly difficult to be happy when you are perennially plugged into unhappiness. You do not have to buy into that! 

4| It’s A Choice 

Are you happy? 

Whatever your answer is, it’s true because you have to make an active decision to be happy. If you don’t, then you will very likely automatically find yourself drawn to everything negative. Happiness is a lifestyle you live, it’s a decision you make, and when you make that decision, it sets you off on a very specific course… more happiness. 

5| Complexity

It takes time to appreciate the good things in life and choose to acknowledge our reasons to be happy. When our lives are too hectic and overly complicated, we do not allow ourselves the time to reflect on our positives and enjoy our lives. We over book our time and spend too much time worrying about work and the things we feel we have to achieve.

Simplify your life, remove unnecessary clutter in your home and your daily routine. A more sparse home is easier to maintain allowing you more time for fun and reflection. Also choose to spend time with people who make your life simpler rather than those who create unneeded stress.

6| Negativity

A huge barrier to happiness is negativity. Science writer  Christopher Bergland suggests that people with positive attitudes tend to be setting themselves up for improved psychological health. When we allow petty annoyances to rule our lives, we are not really living our best lives. A cycle of negativity will prevent us from embracing the positives that surround us. 

If something makes you feel negatively, take a real critical look at why that is the case. Ask yourself if it makes sense, does it really matter and does this deserve space in my thoughts. If the answer is no, then let the negativity go. Seek the silver lining to those dark clouds.

7| Fear Of Failure

Sometimes in life we find ourselves not trying something because we actually believe it’s not worth the disappointment. Psychologist Guy Winch Ph.D. says we are all afraid to fail but some of us fear it so greatly we lose all motivation. There is shame attached to failure which honestly need not be there. This is something we need to reconcile if we wish to be happy.

It is important to note that not one person who has achieved great things has ever done so without first failing. When we fail, we learn and this is how we eventually succeed. In order to find true happiness, we need to take risks and be ready to fail once in a while.

8| Denying Our Emotions

A happy face can sometimes be an act and actually mask deep sadness. Sometimes we pretend to be happy when in fact our lives feel out of control and hopeless. We not only lie to those around us but sometimes to ourselves.

Psychologist Steven C. Hayes Ph.D. equates denial of emotions to ignoring a warning light in your car. You may ignore the warning signs but the problem does not go away and a breakdown may be coming. We need to acknowledge how we really feel and if we are struggling to cope then we need to seek help. Until we understand our emotions, happiness is going to be elusive. 

10 Secrets To A Happier Life

Happiness should not be an elusive feeling. Happiness is part of a lifestyle. It would be impossible to try and avoid pain, disappointment, loss, failure, trauma, loss, or grief. You can’t avoid the pain of human life because you are part of humanity. It’s whether you’re willing to choose happiness on a daily basis. That’s where your journey begins! You aren’t looking to external solutions to find the happiness that lives within you. 

Your job might suck, you might not make enough money, you may not like your family or even your friends. Those are frustrating issues, but they aren’t in control of your happiness. You can be happy right this moment, but you have to make an active decision. So, let’s get started. 

According to author Christine Carter Ph.D. happiness is important when it comes to our future performance and achievements. Happy people tend to be more successful in both their professional and personal lives. In fact, happiness is also associated with improved health both physically and mentally. 

Carter does point out, however, that complete happiness is not the optimal state. It is best to have a happy outlook but still allow some room for discontentment. When we are not completely happy, we leave ourselves room for improvement and things to work for. We do still need a level of positivity and happiness to help us remain motivated.

Make Small Pleasures 

What small pleasure brings you more joy than any other small pleasure?

How often do you engage in this small pleasure? How long has it been?

I want you to rewind your life and think about a time in your life you didn’t feel overwhelming pressure. Was it camping? Was it building the evening fire? Was it washing and waxing your car? Is it curling up with a great book and your favorite beverage? 

We often get so caught up in the daily hustle and bustle of life we forget about those small pleasures. I want you to make time for them. 


Feeling healthy is fun and exercising regularly is a great way to keep your body healthy. Not only do you get a glut of feel-good hormones, but exercise can also help you prevent injuries and illness. The key to exercise, though, is choosing things you enjoy doing. Exercise shouldn’t feel like a chore because the more chore-like it feels, the less likely you are to do it. That won’t make anyone happy. 

If you love swimming, then build your exercise routine around that. If you could spend all day running around a soccer field, then join a community team. If there isn’t one, make one! It doesn’t have to be the boring, hard stuff. You can make exercise fun and by doing so, enjoy the many benefits. 

Significant Relationships 

If there is one effective way to find meaning and purpose from this life it will likely come from your meaningful relationships. Look at the state of play of your relationships and make moves to develop three critical relationships.

  • It’s always nice to have a mentor-like relationship. Look for someone who is wiser, older, and knows the benefit of intimate, honest, vulnerable friendships. You can learn about life from them and get a sense of how life can be when you live for yourself rather than other’s expectations. 
  • You should have a relationship with someone closer to your age, someone who you easily relate to because you have shared values, interests, and a similar upbringing. Someone you would class as a true peer due to your similarities. 
  • Finally, you should be the wiser, older, person who serves as the mentor in the friendship. Guiding someone else is a great way to maintain perspective about your life and maintain a strong sense of purpose. 


Just as it’s important to exercise and look after your body, it’s also just as important that you nourish that body. Eat well, it matters to both your body and your mind. When you make good dietary decisions, your mental health will benefit, and that helps both your body and your mood! It’s eating your way to happiness in the most positive way possible. You’re not focused on eating your emotions, rather you are fueling your body. 


If you want to transform your life and be a happier person who lives a happier life, then start practicing gratitude. It’s about shifting your perspective from victimhood to the one with the power and control. Ultimately, you do have control over your happiness. 

Focus on Life’s Positives

Psychotherapist Nancy Colier LCSW, Rev. suggests that somewhere in the region of 80 percent of our thoughts are negative. This is an alarming thing to consider but if we are honest with ourselves are we really surprised? When we allow ourselves to think negatively or dwell on bad thoughts, we greatly affect our moods and leave ourselves depressed and sad. 

The way we think has a big impact on how we feel overall which means we have to be mindful of our thoughts. We can choose to focus on the positive things in our lives and spend less time dwelling on the negative. When we think happier thoughts more regularly, we start to embrace feelings of happiness.

Find a Work Life Balance

It’s a fortunate few who truly love their jobs and are completely happy within their professional lives. The daily grind of work can leave us feeling low and unhappy especially if we can’t find a life balance. There has to be something else to our lives other than work.

It is vital to find time to do things that make us happy in our time away from our jobs. Taking up hobbies or spending time with people who bring us joy are two great ways to do this. When we balance the work and play aspect of our lives, we find ourselves more contented, less stressed, and generally happier in life. 

Accept Imperfection

Cultural lecturer Marianna Pogosyan Ph.D. is a great believer of the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi. It is an ancient idea which embraces imperfection and acknowledges the beauty of not being perfect. It is considered a step on the path to enlightenment which in turn means it’s an important aspect in achieving happiness. 

When we give ourselves permission to not be perfect, we free ourselves from unattainable expectations. Mistakes are always acceptable in life as long as we learn from them and do what we need to fix them. We need to give ourselves realistic expectations and stop pressuring ourselves into a stressful life.

Give of Yourself

So often we completely forget how good being a caring person can feel. Have you ever noticed how miserable selfish people seem to be? This is because when we think only of ourselves, we are giving to an ungrateful person. If we give of our time and resources to help those who truly need it, we will find an amazing feeling from this. Knowing that we have made someone else’s life better by our actions creates a positivity which will boost our own mood as well.

Spend Your Money in the Right Places

What truly makes you happy? Perhaps you enjoy traveling, experiencing new foods, or maybe music is what brings you joy. Spend your spare money on experiences that bring you joy. 

Fancy electronics and flashy possessions may seem fun but will you remember the day you bought them? Probably not, but you will remember a fantastic vacation experience.

10 Secrets To A Happier You

It’s all you want… just to be happy. You want to do what you want and you want to do it when you want to and you shouldn’t have to apologize for that, right? Life is for living and we only get one shot, so why shouldn’t you look after yourself and live your best life? 

Before you can understand what will make you happier, you should take stock of your life because there’s more to happiness than just doing what you want when you want. 

If you want in on the secrets to a happier you, then you’re in the right place! Harvard University has spent the best part of eight decades tracking happiness in a single group of participants and it just happens to be one of the world’s longest-running studies! What researchers have found is that there are six big secrets to being a happier person leading a happy life. 

According to Psychology Today a concept known as positive psychology is key to a happier life. This concept uses our strengths and positive behaviors to help us build a life with deeper meaning and purpose. When we feel we have purpose in life we tend to feel happier and more fulfilled. 

Emphasizing meaning and deep satisfaction gives us a greater feeling of happiness than fleeting moments of joy. If we can build our lives to be more positive and have more meaning we create for ourselves a solid foundation for happiness.

1| Eradicate Bad Habits 

Do you smoke? Do you drink too much alcohol? Are you big on butter? There are a lot of bad habits you could practice, but whatever they are, you should do your best to cut them out quickly. Let this serve as your motivation to quit whatever it is so that you can live the happier life you deserve. 

2| The Crowd You Surround Yourself With 

The happier you were in your childhood, the more likely you are to carry that throughout your life. Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to enjoy their childhood, but that doesn’t mean that you’re stuck in misery. 

You can undo a poor childhood by surrounding yourself with the right crowd now. Choose supportive, loving, warm people with who you enjoy spending time. Avoid the time and energy bandits and make more time for the uplifters. 

3| Educate Yourself 

Knowledge is power and education is everything. What the Harvard study discovered was that the physical health of people without a higher education had the same physical health levels as the Harvard grads did, but the Harvard students were a decade older! I’m certainly not suggesting you rush off to join college, but you can make an active effort to develop and grow as a person by educating yourself as often as possible. 

4| Relationship Work 

You will be a happier person if you develop your emotional intelligence and put the work into your relationship. The wider your social network as you age, the happier and healthier you will age. So, make connections often, nurture your existing relationships, and surround yourself with family and friends. 

5| Strategize 

Difficult situations and difficult people are as guaranteed as the sun is to rise and set. How you cope with those moments, though, will help determine just how happy you are. These strategies will help you moving forward. 

  1. When conflict arises, set about fixing the issue. 
  2. Don’t treat others in a way you wouldn’t like to be treated. 
  3. No matter what, try to find the silver lining in every situation. 
  4. Whatever you do, don’t buy your hype, and start taking yourself too seriously. Sometimes laughing it all off is the best way to react. 

6| Generosity 

People who are generous (with their time, money, and energy) tend to be happier people. Whether you find joy in mentoring or consulting with people who need guidance or you just enjoy spending time with other people. It doesn’t really matter, generosity is an excellent secret to a happier you. Perhaps by serving others you call to a deeper part of you that wishes someone had done the same for you. Whatever you choose, don’t be afraid to be generous with others. 

7| Commit to Working on Yourself

Wellbeing expert Tchiki Davis, Ph.D. suggests that the place to begin to make a happier you is to work on yourself. You need to spend time assessing what makes you happy and what makes you sad. This will allow you to determine what you need to work on to improve your life. You may feel your work life brings you down or you are having relationship issues. Whatever you decide is holding back your happiness is what you need to work on. 

8| Build Confidence with Achievable Goals

Psychiatrist Neel Burton M.D. believes that confidence is important to a healthy, happy life. There are many ways in which we can boost our confidence, according to Burton one of which is setting ourselves goals. These goals should be attainable but significant enough to feel like an achievement. When we succeed at something we get a positive feeling of confidence.

The key to building confidence through achievement is to always have goals that you are working toward. They do not need to have an ultimate purpose, they may just be a personal achievement like learning a new language or skill. 

9| Choose Positive Thinking

Negative thoughts are by far the easiest for most people to have; they often pop up without us even looking for them. It is often far more difficult to look on the bright side of things, we just don’t seem to be wired that way. This then means we do need to work at having a more positive attitude to life.

When you start to think negatively about something make the conscious decision to think about something positive that contradicts the gloom. When you feel like you are lacking things, actually take stock and think about the good things you do have. If you do this often enough it starts to become more automatic and you will find your general mood being lifted.

10| Associate with the People Who Make You Happy

We get to choose who we associate with in our personal lives and this is where we need to make smart decisions. If the people you spend time with leave you feeling drained and down on yourself then they are no good to you. The people you need are the ones who give support, are easy to be with and leave you feeling happier for knowing them. So, build your friendship circle with positive like-minded people. 


The very act of exercise releases feel good hormones in the brain and helps relieve stress and ease depression. Additionally, over time regular exercise helps us feel fitter and boosts our confidence. These two effects make us happier people in general. 

Always Find Some Me Time

In order to be happy, we must first learn to be happy with ourselves. This means that we need to carve out time to get to know who we really are. Spend time alone contemplating what you are proud of about yourself. Analyze what you really want out of life and what you need to do to make that happen.

Finding Inspiration For Contentment Through Joy

Happiness. It is about cultivating beautiful moments throughout your life. It’s about cherishing all of those memories. When you engage with joy you fill your heart to the point that your joy shines a light. Joy breeds contentment and in that joy, you can find inspiration for contentment. 

Society has taught us that we will find happiness through our accomplishments. I’ll be happier once college is over. I’ll be happier when I’m in a settled relationship on the path to marriage. Actually, I’ll be happier once I’m married. I’ll feel better about myself once I lose these last ten pounds. I’ll be happy when I finally own a house of my own. 

There will always be something you want. There always be one more thing. That’s the reality of the human condition. We are social creatures so it makes perfect sense that we want what the people around us have… at a minimum! Here’s the thing… getting those things does not give you happiness. Don’t get me wrong, you will enjoy a brief feeling of joy as it passes through you. It wears off fairly quickly, though, because your accomplishments cannot bring you true joy. 

You can create joy on your own without any input from anyone else. True contentment is a sense of acceptance about who you are, what you have, and what you do at any given moment. It’s easy to get entrenched in the chaos of our daily lives and walk wide of the path. By the time you take a moment you realize you’re in the wrong spot. 

Before you find contentment, you have to be aware of the present. Take a moment to look around your room and without judgment, describe the space. Rather than describe the feeling of a room, get into the details of the colors, textures, and layout. 

Author and Schizophrenia sufferer Mike Hedrick understands a great deal about the importance of finding contentment in life. Hedrick says that contentment is that middle ground between complete happiness and sadness. (

Constant happiness is pretty much impossible and sadly depression and other negative emotions can be more encompassing. Realistically, in life reaching a level of contentment can be the peak we can hope for. 

When we are content this means that we are okay with the way our life is, it’s not ecstatic happiness but we are not sad or depressed. Although contentment does not mean constant happiness this state is reached by finding life’s joys.

You will find the most contentment when you are capable of living presently. With that contentment comes true joy and both unlock inspiration and creativity.

Happiness is a conscious choice that you have to make repeatedly, with that in mind, let’s look at a few ways you can cultivate contentment. 

  • If you feel unhappy, whether it’s with yourself, someone, or something, take a pause. Take a nice deep breath and remind yourself that we’re all human and look for a positive quality about the situation. 
  • Don’t make purchases based on your emotions. If you feel an urge to purchase something, ask yourself whether it is a want or a need. If it’s a need, then you can feel comfortable making the purchase. If it’s a want, then you need to consider it further. Why do you want it? What’s driving your want? Wait for a few days before you buy it, see if that urge dissipates. 
  • Being present is an important part of contentment, but it is also important for your friendships, which are tied to your joy. Be prepared to show others how much you appreciate them, and one of the ways to do that is by being present when you are with them. Put your phone away! 
  • Whatever you do, do not postpone your happiness for some far-off idea, accomplishment, or plan. Don’t wait for the day you’re less stressed or not as busy. If you wait for that, the day may never arrive. Look for any and every opportunity to savor life and revel in joy and contentment. 
  • Do What You Love. We can be inspired to reach contentment by living our lives with an attitude of doing the things that we love. In an ideal world this would include doing a job that you love as well. Sometimes this may not seem possible but perhaps you are not looking at the job the right way. We have power over our own lives and we get to choose how we live them. If your job brings you no joy, consider what about it could change to turn that around.
  • Outside of work, focus on the things that bring you joy. This could be family, hobbies, exercise or basically anything you enjoy doing. We must make time to find joy in our lives to inspire a solid feeling of contentment.
  • Practice Gratitude. If you want to experience joy and find true contentment, then the quickest way to do that is by practicing gratitude. It’s simple enough, you just focus on one or three things each day that you are truly grateful for. Some of the simplest things in life are free and those things are what you should latch onto.

    Psychotherapist Amy Morin suggests that choosing gratitude over self-pity can have a transformative effect on our lives. Simply by focusing on the things in life that we are grateful for we can reach a more emotionally stable outlook on life.

There are a number of benefits that gratitude can have for us including:

  • Improving relationships
  • Improving physical health
  • Improving psychological health
  • Increasing empathy and decreases aggression
  • Improving sleep
  • Boosting self esteem
  • Boosting mental health
  • Embracing the joy that allows ourselves to be grateful for the things we have can really turn around our outlook. It lifts from us the negative emotions, makes us more open to happiness and can actually make us feel physically healthier. Our level of contentment increases greatly when we practice gratitude.
  • Be Accepting of Yourself. When we allow ourselves the joy of telling ourselves that we are good enough we take a huge step toward contentment. Often, we can become so mired in feelings of inadequacy that it brings our moods very low. Simply by accepting that we do not need to be perfect and that it is okay to make mistakes we can focus on our positives and be more content.
  • Serve Others. If you have ever seen the gratitude on the face of someone in need that you have helped you will understand the feeling of joy this can bring. This act not only brings joy to the life of the person you are helping but gives a boost to your own mood. It is a great feeling to give time, donations, or support to a deserving charity, ideally one that means something to you personally. Knowing that you are helping improve things for those who need a little assistance can go a long way to bring contentment to your daily life.

Final Thoughts

The happiness that comes from materialism or success is fleeting. The grass might look greener on the other side of the fence, but the grass is rarely greener. Envy isn’t going to improve your life, but you can take action to do so. 

Complete constant happiness just simply is not possible but finding ways to experience joy throughout life can bring you contentment. Discarding negativity and finding the positives in life can really change your outlook. Give compassion to yourself and others and you will find a feeling of contentment becomes your baseline emotion.

[Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]