Barriers to Happiness

When most people think of barriers to happiness, they tend to picture a lack of money or a negative relationship or two. What they tend to ignore is that the true source of all happiness obstacles is inside the self. I'm not going to try to spend this post convincing you that money won't make you happy or that the best way to deal with a relationship is dealing with yourself. Deep down, you probably already know that, so let's deal with the barriers to happiness that you can control.

Interested in learning more about happiness? Pre-order my new book,The Post-College Guide to Happiness today!

One of the biggest happiness obstacles is a small gap between stimulus and response. The late Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl has taught us that the last human freedom is to choose our reaction to stimuli. If something happens to us, good or bad, we can pick one of two courses of action. The first is to let our emotions dictate the response. The second is to use the gap between stimulus and response to choose a more effective reaction. If you learn to increase this gap, you will remove the emotional barriers to happiness.

Another obstacle is a negative attitude. Dr. Martin Seligman has written extensively on the concept of explanatory style. In short, if something negative happens to you, an optimist (someone with a positive explanatory style) is able to label it a learning experience while a pessimism (someone with a negative explanatory style) may dwell on it and increase the magnitude of the negativity. If you learn to cultivate a positive explanatory style by increasing your optimism, you will push past many happiness blockages.

The largest of the happiness barriers is the belief that happiness comes from external events. If you are only happy when it's sunny out or when the stock market rises, you are bound to be unhappy a much too large portion of the time. If you come to the understanding that happiness must be worked on like a muscle, you are much more likely to increase the amount of joy in your life. Some happiness exercises include connecting with people more often, sending proofs of love to your partner and family members and showing your gratitude for the things and people you have in your life.

There are many ways to remove your happiness obstacles, but if you focus on increasing your gap between stimulus and response, changing your attitude and actively working on your happiness multiple times per week, you will be well on your way to a happier you. 

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Written by Bryan Cohen

Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on and Facebook.
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