Skip to main contentSkip to footer

How can I stop relying on my friends for happiness? An expert's guide

 It's natural to depend on others for happiness, but creating our own happiness is essential for our wellbeing


Woman relaxing on sofa with hot drink© Getty
Melanie Macleod
Wellness Editor
August 2, 2023
Share this:

Whether it's our friends, family or partner, it's normal to be emotionally dependent on other people in our lives and to rely on them to make us happy – but being able make ourselves happy will create inner peace – and who doesn't want that?

Why do we rely on others for happiness?

"In a world where connection is key, it's only natural to seek validation and acceptance from those around us," confirms relationship coach Manj Bahra. In fact, our reliance on others links back to ancient times, adds life coach and author of How To Say No, Michelle Elman, who explains: "Since humans are social creatures and for so long we existed in groups, it actually was key to our survival to be accepted as one of the group."

Manj continues: "These instincts still guide us today, deeply embedded in our minds. We instinctively turn to others to find a sense of security, leading us to experience joy and contentment."

Portrait Of Smiling young African American Woman With Child Taking Selfie© Getty
We rely on friends and family to make us happier

Given that we've relied on others for our happiness since the beginning on time, you might wonder why it's an issue.

 NEED TO KNOW: How to be happy: 22 expert-approved tips to become your most optimistic self 

An inability to make ourselves happy is often linked to low self-confidence, low self-esteem and low self-worth, explains psychotherapist Anna Mathur, author of Raising a Happier Mother. "Seeking validation from others can feel like an exhausting pursuit, meaning we might struggle to maintain healthy boundaries in order to seek more approval," Anna says, adding that when we can find happiness away from others, we also find it easier to receive criticism and opinion.

How to stop relying on others for happiness

The first step in creating our own happiness is being self-aware enough to recognise you are looking to someone else to fulfill something that you are capable of, says Michelle.

Transformation coach Mhairi Todd notes we must be gentle with ourselves in our pursuit of creating our own happiness. "It is not uncommon to become emotionally dependent on significant others and the reason you find yourself in that place deserves to be understood and validated," she says.

"Before doing anything else, it's important to acknowledge any shame or self-judgment that comes up when you realise this dependency and set it to one side. 

young woman smiling in a black coat standing next to a hedge
Mhairi Todd has advice for creating our own happiness

"Shame is destructive because when it arises it acts like a full stop. It kills introspection and self-compassion.  How do you step past it? Get curious," Mhairi advises.

She suggests following a few prompts in your quest to uncover the emotions/events and experiences which have led to you developing relationships as a way to access happiness.  "That in turn will help to build your self-worth," she says.

  • As a kid, I sought validation from... because...
  • My experience of that made me feel...
  • The problems I can see in my friendships currently are...
  • If I reflect on my past, these problems may be linked to...
  • My idea of a healthy friendship now is...

DISCOVER: What are limiting beliefs and why are they stopping you from feeling happy?

How to make yourself happy

1. Change your focus

"If you can pay attention to how you are making yourself proud each day, it's a great way to train your brain to be more internally focused when it comes to validation," says Michelle.

Beautiful young woman loving listening to music on the couch© Getty
It's important we don't rely on others for our happiness

2. Go back to basics

Manj recommends simplifying your approach to happiness. "Instead of spending countless hours searching for your true love, passion, or purpose, simplify your approach," he says.

"Dedicate time to doing things you genuinely enjoy, as they hold the potential to unlock the path towards fulfillment. By embracing simplicity, you'll find that everything falls into place effortlessly."

DISCOVER: Why you'll never be happy without this one key thing 

Michelle agrees, adding: "Create more time in your schedule for hobbies and activities that are purely joy-filled and don’t need to serve any productive goal.

Confident woman laughing and looking off camera shot against white wall© Getty
When we lack self-esteem we find it hard to make ourselves happy

3. Own your alone time

"Often when we rely on our friends for happiness, it makes being alone really difficult, says Mhairi.

"Practice being on your own in a way that feels good. When I split with my ex-husband I suddenly had all this time on my own and it was so confronting. Despite having never been a morning person, I found myself waking daily at 5.30 am and feeling such anxiety that I couldn't go back to sleep. 

Young woman smiling with headphones in© Shutterstock
Embracing me time can help with happiness

"I gave myself permission to use this time in a way that felt good; I tried out every exercise class London had to offer, putting the early rise to positive use for my body and mind. It was such an empowering experience and in the end I found exercise that I actually loved and that became the way I made time alone good for me. 

"Identify some hobbies or interests you've always been keen to explore and start making a date with yourself to do just that."

4. Get to know yourself 

"When we rely heavily on others, it's easy to lose a true sense of self," Mhairi says. "Get to know yourself again. An easy place to start with this is to try free personality profiling tools such as the VIA institute character strengths survey or DISC test.  Focus on the strengths these highlight within you and start noticing how you use these on a day-to-day basis. 

"Journaling is also a brilliant tool for deepening your relationship with yourself, as well as helping you find safety in stillness and time alone.  If you've never done this before you could try these five prompts as a start:

1. On a scale of 1 to 10 my mental health is at a … because …

2. What do I need to forgive myself for and why?

3. 10 ways I can start taking better care of myself are:

4. If I could achieve anything in my life, it would be...

5.  What have I never done before but would like to try?

TRY THIS: I felt happier than ever after 30 minutes spent in this relaxing chamber 

5. Make a 'what makes me happy' list 

From your morning cup of coffee, the sun on your face in the evening, a cuddle from your pooch or lighting your favourite scented candle, we all experience tiny moments of happiness multiple times a day, according to Mhairi. 

"By creating a list of all the things that make you happy you will not only increase your awareness of and gratitude for them, but you'll also have a toolbox to call on in times of need."

 Learn how to be happier with our HELLO! Happiness Hub

Sign up to HELLO Daily! for the best royal, celebrity and lifestyle coverage

By entering your details, you are agreeing to HELLO! Magazine User Data Protection Policy. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, please click here.

More Health & Fitness

See more