Dr Russ Harris is author of the international best-seller, The Happiness Trap.  The title reflects a key theme in the book: that many popular myths about happiness will make you miserable! Here he gives his top 5 tips to escape ‘The Happiness Trap’

Tip 1: Clarify your values

Values are our heart’s deepest desires for how we want to behave: how we want to treat ourselves, others and the world around us. Instead of worrying about whether you feel happy enough, spend some time reflecting on your values – on what you want to stand for in life; the role you want to play in the lives of others; the qualities you want to embody in your actions. As our clarity around your values grows, you can then use them to set goals, find purpose, and guide your life’s direction. 

Tip 2: Focus on doing what matters

We live in a ‘feel good’ society, and we easily get so focused on doing what feels good in the short term, we end up neglecting what really matters in the long term. For example we take drugs or eat junk food, instead of looking after our body with exercise and healthy food; or we spend our evenings watching television mindlessly, instead of doing meaningful life-enhancing activities that could enrich our life in the long term.

Tip 3:  Acknowledge life is painful

 The things that make life rich full and meaningful do not just give us good feelings; they also give us plenty of painful ones. Think of raising kids, building a career, or sustaining a marriage. Sure, these things can give you some wonderful feelings at times; but they’ll also create plenty of difficult feelings. And of course if we live long enough, we will all grapple with illness, injury, grief, loss, disability, and death. So it’s good to cultivate a realistic view on life: it involves plenty of pain.

Tip 4: Recognise if you’re not happy, you’re normal

Western society assumes that humans are naturally happy, so if you’re feeling down, it’s a sign of being weak or defective or abnormal. But is it really? Consider this: One in ten adults will attempt suicide, and one in five will suffer from depression. What’s more, the statistical probability that you will suffer from a psychological disorder at some stage in your life is almost 30 per cent! And when you consider all the misery caused by problems that are not classified as psychological disorders — loneliness, divorce, sexual difficulties, work stress, midlife crisis, relationship issues, low self-esteem, and lack of meaning in life — you start to get some idea of just how painful life really is. Unfortunately, many people walk around with the belief that everyone else is happy except for them. And — you guessed it — this belief creates even more unhappiness. So if you’re not feeling ‘happy, happy, joy, joy’, recognise you’re not defective; you’re normal!

Tip 5: Engage fully in whatever you are doing

In order to find fulfilment in any activity, we need to engage in it fully; give it our full attention.  If we do an activity on ‘automatic pilot’, or while lost in our thoughts, or in distracted or disengaged manner, it will not be rewarding or satisfying, and we will not do it well. Develop the skill of keeping your attention fully on whatever it is you are doing.

The Happiness Trap by Dr Russ Harris (RRP$29.99) and his brand new release, The Happiness Trap Pocketbook: An illustrated guide on how to stop struggling and start living by Dr Russ Harris and Bev Aisbett (RRP$19.99) are available from www.exislepublishing.com.au, and all good book stores.
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  • And don’t expect to be happy all the time – it comes and goes.


  • Thinking it, talking it, reading it makes happiness seem so easy, but it’s really not


  • Some people need to be able to chill out, nor think about anything in particular, forget about the world around them and enjoy some “me time”. If that be sitting in front of the TV on a few occasions so be it.


  • Why would anyone want to escape the happiness trap? I would love to be stuck in that kind of trap


  • food for thought here.


  • Why would you want to escape the happiness trap? If you’re stuck in a happiness trap, wouldn’t you want to stay there?


  • Really very interesting article! Thanks for sharing this!


  • this is a really honest approach to things. thanks for sharing your views


  • Being present in our own lives certainly goes a long way.


  • Great tips and advice to follow, thanks for sharing.


  • Great article, thanks for the advice!


  • I’m a firm believer that a distorted expectation of reality will ultimately lead to unhappiness, if our expectations are continually exceeded however it’s always a positive experience!


  • A good read, thank you. I especially like the last point about engaging fully in whatever you’re doing…. I sometimes come home from an outing only to realise that I’ve “gotten through it”… as if it’s something to tolerate rather than enjoy, even though I’d been really looking forward to it.


  • Life has ups and downs we all have to learn to live with them


  • this is brilliant, hits the spot totally. remember no one likes the tough times, but it makes us stronger….there is a quote that helps me…….DONT EXPECT LIFE TO BE FAIR…..IT WONT BE.

    If any rational person looks at it honestly how can life be happy 100%?


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