5 Lies of Happiness That Actually Increase Depression

Lies of Happiness

Content updated from previous publish date.

Do you know how to find happiness? If you believe what society has been telling you, then you might think you know where to look to get the joy you seek. But you could be wrong. 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. They are spreading 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. Click To Tweet


Happiness 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. This process involves the neurochemical dopamine, which is known as the molecule of more because it causes you to want more pleasurable things. This phenomenon can occur in Olympic and professional athletes, entrepreneurs, movie stars, and recording artists who never learned to manage their minds.

True happiness often lies in appreciating the little things in life. Make it a point to notice the things that make you smile throughout your day.

Happiness 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.

Happiness 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, ADD/ADHD, obesity, cancer, and a lower IQ. That is not a recipe for happiness. Consuming foods that nourish your brain, body, and moods is a better way to ship up happiness.

Happiness 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.” If you’ve ever been to Disneyland or Disney World, you know it can be a mixed bag. It can be fun, or it can be stressful and exhausting because of the large crowds, long lines, crying children, and expensive trinkets. Let’s hope it’s not the happiest place on earth, as stress can shrink the major mood and memory centers in the brain. The truth is, you need to learn to cultivate happiness within yourself and take it with you wherever you go.

Happiness 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. For example, being glued to social media is having a deleterious effect on self-esteem. A better route to finding happiness may lie in doing a brain detox that includes a temporary technology detox.


There are many more societal lies about happiness that can drag you down and leave you feeling empty, hopeless, helpless, or full of negativity. Some of these lies include the belief that happiness comes from alcohol, marijuana, video games, constantly being “in the know,” sugary sweets, or money.  All of these quick fixes may make you feel good in the moment, but they are associated with long-term consequences.

  • Alcohol damages the brain and body in serious ways that impact moods, physical health, and cognitive function.
  • Marijuana reduces blood flow to the brain, can cause psychosis in some people, and can lead to cannabis dependence.
  • Video games are addictive.
  • Being “in the know” can breed unhappiness, as research in the Harvard Business Review shows that just a few minutes of negative news in the morning can lower your happiness later in the day by 27%.
  • Sugary treats cause blood-sugar spikes and crashes that lead to mood swings.
  • Money, although it is not irrelevant, cannot buy happiness. One study on wealthy people revealed that in order to be a perfect 10 in happiness, most said they needed 2 to 10 times more than what they had.

Do not let yourself be roped into thinking you must desire what society and marketers are selling to you. Stay true to yourself and find what makes you uniquely happy. If depressive symptoms refuse to dissipate despite your best efforts to find joy, seek professional help. You deserve to be happy.

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking 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

  26. Happiness happens for me when I put God first place in my life, let Him take care of me when things are not going my way.. Pray, listen, have faith ……. His will be done. God wants the best for me and you. Tom Lengyel, Frazer, Pa

    Comment by Tom Lengyel — January 16, 2023 @ 4:31 AM

  27. Now may the hope of God fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
    The good news:Trusting that God has a handle

    Comment by Tom Lengyel — January 17, 2023 @ 12:20 PM

  28. Trusting that God has a handle on our lives is our only source of hope. You should find comfort in the idea that he knows what He is doing.

    Comment by Tom Lengyel — January 17, 2023 @ 12:25 PM

  29. excellent information!

    Comment by Doug Morris — October 16, 2023 @ 2:28 PM

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