Happiness features in many people’s New Years’ resolutions. How many times have you heard people say that they wish – or, resolve to be happy come January 1st? The wish, desire, and in this case, intent to be happy is related to our pursuit of Happiness, and the many ways we go about to elevate our sense of satisfaction with our lives. Paradoxically, however, the wish to be happy – and, more generally, making Happiness as a goal, is not always the best way to achieve Happiness. Put another way, the more we want to be happy, the less likely we are to be happy.
Happiness has tended to prove elusive for this reason. Try setting Happiness as goal; you might have heard of people say, “I’ll be happy when I make partner at my firm”, or, “If I could afford a new apartment, that will make me happy.” By making your Happiness dependent on a circumstance, your Happiness is in some way, held hostage on a series of external consequences. This paradox of making Happiness a goal has been shown in some studies to have a negative impact on your overall Happiness. In one study, psychologists compared two groups of women and found that when they valued Happiness more, they were more likely to feel less happy than women who valued Happiness less. They found this to be the case when the women were not stressed – a situation typical to most of our daily lives. Simply put, in most day-to-day situations where we are not under stress, valuing Happiness appears to lower our Happiness overall. The researchers followed-up this study and found that the more participants valued Happiness, they reacted less positively to a happy video – an effect that was also explained by their disappointment with their own feelings. They conclude by stating, “Valuing Happiness can impair Happiness, just when Happiness seems almost attainable.” 
Another study points to the same conclusions about the desire and want to be happy. Researchers found that the more individuals valued happiness, they were more likely to have both symptoms, and history of clinical depression. Even after ruling out demographic differences (factors such as gender, age, education, income and race among others), the relationship between happiness and depressive symptoms held. In summary, it seems that the emotions – in this case, happiness, that people desire to feel may partly explain for why they instead feel depression .
What then, might be a better way to approach happiness and to attain it? Well, for starters – don’t make happiness a goal. Avoid resolving to be happy by the turn of the New Year. Do not say that you will be happy once you reach a certain goal. Instead, find goals, projects, tasks or even hobbies that are intrinsically rewarding and meaningful in themselves – and do it. Happiness is likely to follow as an effect of pursuing such personally meaningful and personally rewarding goals. Put another way, do not pursue happiness. Happiness will oftentimes the results from the pursuit of something meaningful in and of itself.