Our Brain's Natural Desire To Always Want More Could Cause Unhappiness

Have you ever gotten a new job, a new car, or even a new relationship that you really wanted, only to find that your initial glee over that new exciting thing in your life quickly fades before it's on to the next big dream? As it turns out, that's just how we're wired.

Research published in PLOS Computational Biology explained that this mentality of always wanting more promotes adaptive behavior in humans which is important for our evolution. But when this behavior runs rampant, it can lead to many issues, including a lack of happiness and satisfaction with our lives.

Life is always changing and we as humans are wired to adapt and adjust. But when we accomplish a goal only to have that happiness quickly fade, we find ourselves on what's called the "hedonic treadmill" (via Healthline). The "paradox of choice" is another way of thinking that leads to our unhappiness. More options to choose from equal less satisfaction with the choice you ultimately make because you're always left wondering about what could have been.

There's nothing wrong with having expanding desires — it's part of being an ever-evolving human. But you run into a problem when you aren't able to feel satisfied with what you've got. This can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction, a sense that something is missing, and an overall energy of unhappiness. So how can we overcome this constant cycle of desire and start feeling happy with our lives?

Achieve happiness by practicing mindfulness and gratitude

It's tough to maintain a state of happiness if you are always thinking about the next goal you want to achieve or feeling regret about a choice you made instead of going with another option. While it's tough to circumnavigate this ingrained mentality, there are some things you can do to help ease dissatisfaction and encourage happiness.

The paradox of choice and having a mindset that the grass is always greener on the other side can be helped by practicing acceptance and gratitude. Psychiatrist Dr. Alex Dimitriu told Healthline, "Settling for 'good enough' is essential in a situation with too many choices. In my work with high-achieving patients, I always emphasize the statement that 'the enemy of good is better. Indeed, finding peace with 'good enough' and actually enjoying it — through gratitude, mindfulness, etc. — may lead to a less than optimal choice, but a significantly higher level of satisfaction."

Similarly, it's impossible to enjoy your accomplishments when you are constantly focused on raising the bar, which is what happens with the hedonic treadmill. Practicing mindfulness can help you learn how to press pause and bask in the present moment rather than bunny hopping from one goal to the next, per Healthline.

Carving out space for gratitude and mindfulness will help you enter into a state of happiness so you can appreciate and savor where you are while feeling eager and excited for what's to come.