In a quest to find that moment of joy, sense of fulfillment, and feeling of belonging, we tend to go the extra mile to feed our souls with everything except for what actually satisfies our deeper needs. We don’t realize we’re looking in the wrong places for the answers, and every day that we stray further away from that truth, we tear our hearts open a bit more.

Think about it, have you ever tried so hard to get something that you really wanted? Get those grades up, get the perfect job, buy the nicest car, the biggest house, book the best vacation? Certainly they give us joy, and it releases a bunch of happy feelings. But what comes after that? What happens once you got that thing that you longed for so badly?

Consider yourself lucky if you even got that slight moment of happiness. Most of us lose ourselves along the way of the journey to the unachievable. In fact, we think those things, often-materialistic based, fill the void inside. But it doesn’t. It might temporarily release a feeling of satisfaction and happiness, but it doesn’t last.

Social media and self-esteem

This is happening right now in your own life too, without you being consciously aware of it. If you’re between the ages of 13 and 34, chances are very high you’re an active social media user.

One of Mark Zuckerberg’s claims about the goal of Facebook is to ‘to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.’ Let’s unpack that; in reality, most Facebook users are mindlessly scrolling through their feed; either in bed at home, during class, on their commute to school, or during the break at work. What does that do for the ‘community’ that you’re trying to build? It withholds you from meeting friends after school, not talking to your classmates, distancing yourself from small talk on the bus, and avoiding break-conversations with your colleagues.

You might initially think, just like Mark Zuckerberg, that creating this digital persona and establishing these online relationships will bring you closer together to other people, boost your self-esteem, and fill that void inside of you. But what it actually does, in the long run, is separating you from that which can actually bring you happiness; human interaction.

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Another destructive mechanism that distances us from achieving true contentment is the pursuit of materialistic happiness. With this, I mean everything ‘solid’ or tangible that will give you a sense of joy. In other words, anything that money can buy.

Don’t get me wrong, most material things in the world will make you happy. But again, think about what’s at the end of the road? You can save up your whole life for your dream car, but once you have it, what’s next? The road to achieving that ultimate goal is rocky, is has wholes in it, and it’s not lit up at night. But what if instead of looking at the end goal, we look down and fix those wholes in the ground, so that we can enjoy every second of the journey?

Essentially, materialism depletes us from happiness, it distances us from the community, it makes us less likely to care about our neighbor, and it threatens the relationship with our loved ones. Yet it is exactly that which we try to pursue in order to feel complete and satisfied.

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Perhaps the most depleted source of happiness is the relations we have with others. Naturally, humans seek other humans to find companionship and combat loneliness. We care deeply about impressing others and establishing new relationships, both platonic and romantic.

If the relationships we have with others is supposed to be the highest raking source of happiness, joy, and laughter, then why is it that over 40 percent of marriages end in divorce? How is it that most people go through an average of 5 heartbreaks in their lifetime?

Internalized happiness

The answer to all these questions is very simple. When we seek relationships, we do that with other people. Yet we forget that the most important relationship that you can have is the one with yourself. You won’t find that eternal happiness with your partner or best friend if you haven’t found it within yourself first.

Same goes for materialism. Our purchases only increase our happiness temporarily and to a mere surface level. That means deeper embedded issues like loneliness, depression, anxiety, or stress are not resolved by making those purchases. This is because these issues lay below the surface level. You can’t see them, thus you can also not fix them with outside forces.

Social media might make you feel more connected to the people in your online community, but where are these people when you’re alone in your room dealing with these deeper issues? It only pulls you further away from those things which are actually capable of healing you and bringing you joy.

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A piece of advice

Find those happy moments of which you know they bring you true happiness; eating with friends, watching a movie with that one person, talking on the phone to your mom, making a stroll along the beach, listening to your favorite songs, reading a book, and so on. Only these things will fill the void inside of you as nothing else can. It won’t just be a temporary fix; it will be a lifelong philosophy that will succeed in showing you the true meaning of life.

Once you found those happy moments, only then should you focus on other matters like making those desired purchases, maintain an active online profile, and establishing relationships.