The Single Biggest Enemy to Your Happiness, and How You Can Defeat It

Aaryan Harshith
4 min readNov 23, 2019

For some reason, 20th-century society has become obsessed with wealth.

Of course, it wasn’t always like this.

For the majority of humanity’s existence, it didn’t take much to have lived a fulfilled life. So what changed?

By studying how society’s ideals change over the years, one thing becomes apparent — what changes isn’t humanity’s need for happiness, but what they associate with it.

Seeing that we live in a society of such abundance, it’s hard to see why depression and suicide rates are sky-high. After all, doesn’t the modern-day human have everything they could need?

Depression rates are through the roof, all while society is experiencing surges in abundance — why?

Nowadays, scientific and psychological publications are pumping out articles on happiness faster than readers can keep up. In the next few minutes, this article will cover the science behind our number one obstacle to happiness, and how you can take these simple principles to your advantage to turn your life around.

If You Got Here, Congratulations

Our attention spans are like burning fuses — losing their valuable length every second. Society has evolved corporations to wage wars for these ever-shrinking attention spans, and the average Joe ends up stuck in the crossfire.

Sadly, this crossfire has worse effects than a lowered attention span alone. As the revolutionary Blaise Pascal once said:

Surprisingly, over 10% of people secretly fear this scenario over death. When looking deeper, we realize that these people aren’t scared of being alone — in fact, they aren’t alone. When people are supposedly by themselves, with nothing to distract their brains, they are left vulnerable to the assaults from their inner thoughts. If there’s one thing that the internet age does well, it keeps us detached from these thoughts.

Our complete slavery to our attention spans has corrupted us — people now find it nearly impossible to anything without being distracted. If you look for this, you will find it everywhere — people taking pictures of their food, using their phones when in conversations, and zoning out in important meetings.

If one is ever focused, in today’s age, you can be sure that it’s rarely on any one thing. Imagine these people trying to enjoy themselves on a luxurious vacation. Forget about taking advantage of the situation, they would most likely never take the time to be present.

How can these people expect to be remotely happy when they’ve failed to create a meaningful memory by savouring the moment?

Countless studies show that humans are a loss-centric species — we weigh losses almost 2X their equivalent in gains. If we don’t stay intentional about noticing beautiful and joyful moments in our lives, our psychology will automatically lead us towards depression.

In a sense, happiness is a constant battle against your steadfast instinct to focus on loss, but the fight is much simpler than you think.

Fighting the Battle

As you have seen, lack of attention is the biggest plague to our society’s happiness, but how can we fight this battle?

Research shows that actions as simple as noticing one beautiful thing every day drastically increased levels of perceived happiness.

Those who said they regularly took notice of something beautiful were 12% more likely to say they were satisfied with their lives.

This was a study cited by Dr. David Niven from Ohio State University, and it implies the simplicity of what people need to do to be happy.

Before the age of warfare for our attention, states of gratitude and happiness came naturally to people. Currently, depression and suicides are so high since people are forced to manifest happiness for themselves. Although modern civilization is at a disadvantage to their predecessors, the solution is simple, and it’s pretty obvious.

Not only does this habit allow you to train your mind to pay attention, but it also allows you to be attentive to the right things.

If you find this state of mind hard to use, you are not alone.

A study that analyzed roughly 250,000 data points of self-recorded emotions found that almost 50% of the time (46.9%), people are thinking of something other than their current situation.

What this study shows is astounding. People have become so enslaved by their attention spans that they eat up almost half of their waking hours oblivious to their situations. To add, when daydreaming about the future, humans still tend to be loss-centric, making this thought-system a vicious cycle of worry.

Reversing this cycle can be done with the habit of meditation or the practice of being regularly present. Of course, daydreaming is a highly effective visualization exercise; however, setting aside half of your time towards it is silly. Some psychologists refer to a short attention span as a tax on the common man, and we can all agree that it’s a hefty price to pay.

All in all, no matter how far you’ve come in the process of joyful fulfillment, our attention spans are something we are forced to fight against. Despite the reality that society isn’t in the most favourable state when it comes to attention, we do have control.

By being intentional about noticing beauty in the world around us and fighting to stay present, you can slowly gain back control of our emotions, and maybe become a bit happier than where you started off. Thank you.