What I Think Will Make Me Happy vs. What Actually Makes Me Happy

March 28, 2018 Ali No comments exist

In the past year I’ve started to notice this disconnect between what I think I want, and what I actually want. The first time I noticed this was at a coffee shop. This was right after my strict diet of basically just eating fruits, veggies, and meats for 8 months. I couldn’t have sugar. Before this, my go-to coffee order was a mocha, I just loved them. It should be noted that before this diet, I was a total SUGAR ADDICT. The mocha fueled that addiction nicely.

So I’ve just finished this diet and haven’t had sugar for 8 months. I’m ordering a coffee. And I pick a mocha, during my diet I had been ordering lattes, without any flavor. I was SO excited to drink this mocha, I thought “I’ve been just drinking plain lattes for months, this is going to be GREAT.” I take the first sip and it’s wonderful, decadent, chocolatey, everything I could’ve wished for.

Sip 2, “Hmm this is starting to taste WAY too sweet.” Sip 3, “The sugar is overpowering, I wish I had just ordered a latte.” Wait, WHAT?! For 8 months I’ve been longing to order a mocha and now that I can have it, I don’t like it?

Guys, this STILL happens when I go to a coffee shop and order something, and it’s at least a year post diet. I always think I want the mocha, or something similar, and if I order that I don’t like it and wish I had just gotten a latte. But if I order the latte I think, “This isn’t very fun, a mocha would be more exciting.” Why is my brain telling me one thing will make me happy (mocha), when really what will make me happy is what I already have (latte)? How is it that I only know the latte is what will make me happy, when I am drinking the mocha and not enjoying it?

Can’t I just order a latte and know that’s the best option for me? Apparently not. Hmm. Where else does this phenomenon apply to my life?


Does this sound like you? You have some free time and you think, “Awesome, I’m going to watch that next episode on the Netflix show I’m into right now, this will be so fun.” You sit down on the couch, que up the show and settle in to watch. About 2 minutes into the show, you think “Maybe I’ll just check my phone quick, I wonder what’s new on Facebook and Instagram.” Soon you find you’re somewhat paying attention to your phone, maybe scrolling through Pinterest, while also kinda watch the show and then you think “Maybe I need a snack.” Then, you’re eating a snack you don’t really need, while looking at your phone, and watching the show and feeling discontent. The show is on autoplay though, so soon you’ve watched 3 episodes, all the while thinking about what you should be accomplishing instead, maybe the laundry, or vacuuming etc.

Sound familiar? This happens to me all the time.

Here again I find my brain THINKS I want to do something (watch Netflix) to make me happy, and really, it’s making my unhappy. Granted, not EVERY time I watch something or a movie, but often, and especially if I’m alone while watching.

What would ACTUALLY make me happy in my free time

MANY THINGS. I have a ton of interests: playing piano, listening to music, dancing while listening to music, doing an some kind of project (could be art or painting or re-arranging a room), yoga, outdoor adventures, coloring, reading, cooking, learning something new, trying something new, sports, playing games, hanging out with family and friends, and my boyfriend.

I find that when I’m with other people, I have no problem choosing these other things. It’s when I’m by myself that I find I am drawn to watching tv, or being on my phone, EVEN THOUGH I AM NOW WELL AWARE IT WON’T MAKE ME HAPPY.

Boils Down to Addictiom

What’s the real story here? Like I mentioned in the beginning I was a total sugar addict, and it appears now I have an addition to technology. Even though I am not the wild sugar eater I once was, my brain remembers how I felt so it’s driving me to make those choices even though I don’t want to. Similarly, my brain is trying to fuel my tech addiction by having me check my phone or watch a show. More on why we get addicted to tech in these articles…

If you’re anything like me, while reading these articles about how we get addicted to technology and why we have short attention spans, I still find that I have a hard time making it through the article, because I’ve lost my attention span, sad. I encourage you to push through and read the whole article, and not skip around, there is some great information in there.

Your Brain May Be Craving Creativity & Focus

Ready to hear something scary? I can’t find the article where I read this (so I’m not positive on the accuracy), but every time you check social media, it kills your creativity for 5 HOURS! At the rate most of us check social media, that means we’re effectively killing our creativity all the time. Isn’t that terrifying?

Some theorize it’s because we need to have some boredom to be creative and in today’s world, whenever we start to feel bored, we grab our phones or use tech in some way to entertain ourselves.

Try this experiment: Put your phone away, and do some non-tech activity you love. Maybe it’s an art project, maybe it’s climbing, or walking the dog, or reading a book, or singing to the radio, or taking a bath, or doing a house project or working out (not while watching tv). Whatever activity that in the past you’ve been doing and you totally lost track of time because you were so involved and were enjoying yourself so much. DO THAT THING. For at least an hour. For me, working with horses has always worked.

Then, pay attention, how did you feel while you did it? Do you feel a little happier now? Maybe you feel more energized.

Just a note: * My brain also craves variety, so I can’t do the same activity every day, I have to mix it up and try new things. You might find this is also true for you.

Is there a long-term solution to the tech addiction?

What's the Solution?

I’m not entirely sure yet, I’m still working on this myself.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. When doing something or eating something or drinking something, take a second and think about it. Am I really enjoying this? Or do I actually feel discontent, maybe something isn’t tasting as good as you thought it would.

This may sound like weird advice, but you could find a healthy addiction to replace your unhealthy one, I replaced my addiction to sugar with an addiction to spicy foods. I LOVE spicy food and seek it out all the time, but for me this addiction doesn’t seem to have any negative effects. In fact, there are studies saying spicy food is healthy. An example of this for tech could be replacing tv time with exercising.

The tech one I feel is a little more challenging because it is something that is constantly evolving. Which is intriguing. Here are some baby steps you can try:

  • Put your phone on silent at intervals, don’t have it in the room with you, and leave it home sometimes when you can.
    • I always put my phone on silent at night while I sleep so a notification doesn’t wake me up.
    • On vacation, I try to put my phone away almost completely and don’t have it out
    • While spending time with friends and family I try to put my phone away and not check it.
      • Pay attention when you do this, do you feel happier? I do.
  • Do a tech free hour every day
    • This would be a great time to do your creative passion(s)!
  • Spend more time with people, and put all the phones away
    • Have deep conversations, play games, do an outdoor activity together, cook/eat together, travel etc…
    • Partly, we’re craving connection, so make or strengthen some connections!
  • Encourage your friends and family to also do tech free time, because technology influences others to use technology
    • If you pick up your phone, or go on your computer, it encourages others to do the same, until everyone is on technology and no one is interacting face to face
      • Have you noticed this pattern?

For more info: Here’s a TED talk: Social Media is Making Us Unsocial

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