How Rethinking Happiness Can Help Cure The 'Stress Pandemic'

05/14/2014 03:25 pm ET | Updated May 14, 2014

Generations after generations have been raised to believe that academic achievement and career success will bring them the happiness they seek in life. But only in recent years have parents, professors and students begun questioning, on a large scale, whether the pursuit of money and power might actually be leaving them feeling stressed out, unhappy and unfulfilled.

Psychology lecturer and best-selling author Tal Ben-Shahar has made a career of teaching happiness at Harvard University. An expert on positive psychology and the psychology of leadership, Ben-Shahar joined HuffPost Live’s host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani today to discuss the stress that can arise from outmoded ideals of success.

“Unfortunately stress has become a pandemic. It’s a global phenomenon,” Ben-Shahar said. “Stress levels are rising by the day, and one of the reasons [why] is people misunderstand what happiness is. They truly believe that if they get into this university or they get this raise or they climb this mountain, this is what will make them happier, and it won’t.”

While these life milestones are able to create “temporary spikes” in a person’s sense of well-being and life satisfaction, Ben-Shahar explained that this isn't what accounts for a true sense of fulfillment.

“What leads to happiness are other things -- things like relationships, things like contributing to others, feeling that what you’re doing makes a difference -- and it doesn’t need to be on a grand scale,” he said. “It’s the journey that’s made meaningful that ultimately leads to long-term happiness.”

To hear more from Ben-Shahar about the stress pandemic and foundations for happiness, watch the full HuffPost Live clip above.

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