5 Lies of Happiness That Actually Increase Depression

Lies of Happiness

[Excerpted from You, Happier: The 7 Neuroscience Secrets of Feeling Good Based on Your Brain Type by Daniel G. Amen, MD]

You, Happier: The 7 Neuroscience Secrets of Feeling Good Based on Your Brain Type is written by psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and brain health expert Daniel G. Amen, MD. In this book, he reveals how to discover your brain type and tailor happiness strategies best suited to your brain type. This book also shows how to improve your overall brain health to consistently enhance your mood, protect your happiness by distancing yourself from the “noise” in your head, and make 7 simple decisions and ask 7 daily questions to boost your happiness.

Before discussing how to use neuroscience to be happier and unveiling the 7 secrets no one is talking about, it’s important to recognize the lies of happiness. For financial gain, marketers have been brainwashing populations for decades into believing happiness is based on things that actually damage our brains, ruin our minds, increase depression, and make us unhappy.

For financial gain, marketers have been brainwashing populations for decades into believing happiness is based on things that actually damage our brains, ruin our minds, increase depression, and make us unhappy. Click To Tweet

5 Lies of Happiness That Actually Increase Depression

Lie #1

Having more and more of something (love, sex, fame, drugs, etc.) will make you happy. Unfortunately, if you are not careful, the more pleasure you get, the more you will need in the future to continue making you happy, something called hedonic adaptation. Your brain will adapt to high-pleasure experiences, so you’ll need more each time to get the same effect, much like cocaine. Seeking more and more of a pleasure high often leads to depression because it wears out the pleasure centers in your brain, which we will discuss. I have seen this phenomenon repeatedly in Olympic and professional athletes, movie stars, and recording artists who never learned to manage their minds.

Lie #2

A “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” mindset, promoted by the popular 1988 Grammy Song of the Year of the same name by Bobby McFerrin, will make you happy. In fact, this mindset will make you unhappy and kill you early. According to one of the longest longevity studies ever published, the “don’t worry, be happy people” die early from accidents and preventable illnesses. You need some anxiety to be happy. Appropriate anxiety helps us make better decisions. It prevents us from running into the street as children, risking broken bodies, and running headlong into toxic relationships as adults, risking broken hearts.

Lie #3

Advertisers and fast-food restaurants know what will make you happy. Take McDonald’s Happy Meals (and kids’ meals on most restaurant menus), for example. They certainly will not make children happy. These meals should be called Unhappy Meals as the low-quality, nutrient-sparse, processed food-like substances increase inflammation and have been linked with depression, ADHD, obesity, cancer, and a lower IQ.

Lie #4

Someplace else will make you happy. The notion that happiness lies elsewhere is wrong. A prime example is Disneyland, which claims to be “the happiest place on earth.” I grew up in Southern California, and Disneyland opened in 1955 when I was just a year old. I’ve been many times. Depending on whom I’m with, it can be fun or it can be stressful and exhausting because of the large crowds, long lines, crying children, and expensive trinkets. I’m hoping it’s not the happiest place on earth, as stress can shrink the major mood and memory centers in the brain.

Lie #5

You need a smartphone, watch, tablet, or the latest technology to make you happy. Technology can be addicting; gadgets and apps grab our attention and distract us from more important things such as family, friends, fitness, or faith. Many people eat at the same table but engage with their phones, rather than with each other. Current research has found that many teens spend more hours on social media (average of 9 hours) than they do sleeping. Children 8 to 12 are online 6 hours a day. Technology has hijacked developing brains with potentially serious consequences for many.

In my book, You, Happier, I reveal an additional 6 lies of happiness that may be keeping you down.

If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already learned how to have a happier brain and a happier life at Amen Clinics, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.  


  1. I like this article as I have been talking about this for a long time. In my opinion the major problem is when expectations are not met. So many wealthy people who have it all but are unhappy. It is a tool of the capitalist system to sell products and services. Even in the people helping business when people are sold quick and fast solutions to their problems. When expectations are not met this can be followed by depression. It all creates dependence. We need to talk about independence.

    Comment by John Styffe — December 29, 2021 @ 3:11 AM

  2. Amen!

    Comment by David — December 29, 2021 @ 3:33 AM

  3. I think happiness is increased by focusing on what you want, rather than on what you don’t want. Therefore why does this article choose to to make its focus about lies instead of truths?
    Is it just a psychological trick to put you into a negative paradigm and then give you the antidote straight after making you feel happier.
    I was much happier before I read this article.
    I read it on my smartphone whilst eating some Macdonalds on my way to Disney World Paris, whilst humming don’t worry be Happy. Hallelujah, Amen!

    Comment by Warren — December 29, 2021 @ 5:48 AM

  4. Another often overlooked lie is the “consumer mentality “ that we are all oppressed by. We are taught at an early age to buy, buy, buy . What other culture has an entire industry of storage units? How many of us have full capacity use of our garages? Why isn’t aren’t more of us keeping our cars, ten or more years? After all these purchases, we are faced with the trash created and the drive to acquire more. Definitely a recipe for unhappiness!

    Comment by Kathy Chavez — December 29, 2021 @ 7:50 AM

  5. Being unable to discipline oneself in this article is a key concept. Thank you. Reviewing the history of artists seems to point in this direction. Particularly when the details are known. I wonder about people like Bach.

    Comment by Grant Schettler — December 29, 2021 @ 8:01 AM

  6. Thanks for the reminders Dr Amen about those misleading ways to happiness that leave us emptier and unfulfilled .

    Comment by Joe Moriarty — December 29, 2021 @ 8:04 AM

  7. Great information and very true!

    Comment by Doree User — December 29, 2021 @ 8:46 AM

  8. It’s true. You are what you think, feel, and how your actions vs. Your reactions. In other words, it is a mindset function, how your brain chemistry shoot out singles to your blood, oxygen, respiratory, and pulse. Moreover, it all spirals down to your mood, and change your behavior of perspectives.

    Comment by Ricky — December 29, 2021 @ 1:04 PM

  9. The book of Proverbs tells us that ‘the eye and the grave are never satisfied…both say ‘more’

    Comment by gwen rogers — December 29, 2021 @ 2:46 PM

  10. It is excruciatingly difficult to raise a human in today’s world . I agree that we are being told lies, lots of them even beyond this article🙏 To discern happiness from sadness is strictly perception. I’m sure those who have traveled abroad witness the poor being more happy than “we” the modern society. They understand the values in a simple life. We should collectively return ourselves to basic living. It would put everything back into balance however unlikely since greed is rampant in our country especially in the younger generations.

    Comment by Kathleen Jansen — December 30, 2021 @ 5:32 AM

  11. Another related lie is … I refer to social media as anti-social media. I don’t think I need to explain. We have all seen what a negative effect anti-social media has caused in a lot of people’s lives and it is also killing our democracy and our ability to get along with one another.

    Comment by Carol — December 30, 2021 @ 6:11 AM

  12. There is something about what the Dalai Lama says, instead of wanting what we don’t have, how about wanting what we do have already. In other words, for me, this means finding all the many reasons we have to be grateful. And then there is taking good care of body, mind and spirit with healthful things. Some plain old fun is good. And then look toward what we have to offer the world rather than the hedonic pleasure approach 24/7.

    Comment by Mary — December 30, 2021 @ 7:26 AM

  13. Brain scan locations

    Comment by Kenneth Mazzola — December 30, 2021 @ 9:39 AM

  14. Hello Kenneth, thank you for reaching out. Amen Clinics currently has 9 locations (all in the US): https://amenclinics.com/locations/. For more information about scheduling, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — December 30, 2021 @ 3:32 PM

  15. I am wanting to talk with someone to schedule my daughter and myself coming to Dallas for the brain scan and an opportunity to find new healing solutions especially for my daughter, while finding new brain health for myself.

    Comment by Vickie King — December 31, 2021 @ 9:40 AM

  16. I think many people expect others to understand us and make us happy–parents, spouse, friends, should do this. But in truth, it is our own responsibility to find our own happiness. For some, it could mean through financial accumulation, but others find it in fame. Many find it by serving others and yet some find it in solitude. But how we achieve this is up to ourselves. No one else is responsible for making us happy.

    Comment by Marilyn McCormick — December 31, 2021 @ 9:44 AM

  17. “Profound Happiness comes to the truly grateful person “ Dietrich Von Hildebrand. And to those who serve others from an inner joy filled heart. Loving and accepting themselves and others with unconditional love.

    Comment by Sophie Barcant — January 1, 2022 @ 5:18 AM

  18. Excellent points. Wish we could teach this (or remind ourselves) in grade schools, high schools, colleges, churches and jobs.

    Comment by Christine Riederer — January 1, 2022 @ 7:35 AM

  19. Hello Vickie, thank you for reaching out. We would be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding setting up an appointment for you and your daughter. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — January 3, 2022 @ 3:25 PM

  20. One of the big lies you missed — Life isn’t always about being happy. When your goal is just to be happy, you miss out on all of the other emotions that make a complex and full life. For instance, sorrow and grief are necessary for us to move forward as a loved one passes away. Today, they want to strip all the formalities of funerals — no viewing of the body, no saying goodbye at a wake, no talking to long lines of friends sharing their sympathies. We want to gloss over a death and just be happy. Then we wonder why we aren’t just happy? Emotions on all spectrums are necessary and a key element to life. The downs must be experienced to truly appreciate the joys. If your life goal is to be happy — than you’ve missed out on LIFE. Are you going to enjoy and be happy doing homework, working out, cleaning the house, organizing your desk, waking up in the middle of the night to change a dirty diaper, managing a difficult employee? I used to tell my children — it’s called home “work” for a reason — it’s work. If it was home “fun” it would be called such. The joy and pleasure comes from tasks well done not necessarily in doing the task itself. These tedious and difficult tasks are part of life — we are told to be happy and not truly live. True living is experiencing all emotions. That’s truly a life well lived not one focused on just being happy. The Lie is that we are told that being happy is the ultimate goal. Living is happiness, joy, stress, sorrow, grief, pain, suffering, etc. Not just happiness.

    Comment by Suzanne — January 11, 2022 @ 9:58 AM

  21. Thank you for all the comments. I learned more from them than the article itself. For me it doesn’t take much to make me happy. It’s the small things. They are the ones that stay with me and I pull them back and they put a smile on my face. Don’t forget to laugh laughter make u happy.

    Comment by Linda — January 13, 2022 @ 6:49 AM

  22. Right on, Dr.!!!!!

    Comment by D.J. Diebold — March 2, 2022 @ 4:30 AM

  23. Happiness comes from feeling you have made a difference. For example, you may have accomplished something that was challenging, reached a goal you set for yourself or helped a person or group of people out in their time of need.
    Happiness is NOT fun, pleasure, fame, money or “stuff”. This I know for sure!

    Comment by Eva — March 2, 2022 @ 8:11 AM

  24. It’s the small things we do and say within ourselves and with others, the intimate ones that are from our interior garden, that bring the fullness of life.

    Comment by Catherine — March 2, 2022 @ 8:52 AM

  25. You are promoting your how is it different than selling tools for happiness yes there may be some helpful suggestions but you are still trying to sell happiness which may or may not work

    Comment by Joe Salama — March 2, 2022 @ 1:31 PM

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