“Happiness is a state of activity.” –Aristotle
Happy is as happy does. Happiness is not something you are born with. Some people may always be jolly and skipping along, but it’s not automatic. In order to be happy, you have to be active in it.
But sometimes, it’s what you don’t do that gets you in a jolly state. We all carry cranky beliefs, mindsets, and habits. To enjoy more of what life has to offer (which, in case you didn’t know, is quite a lot!) you have to quit doing that harmful stuff.
Below are 11 things you need to drop today in order to be happy.
1. Spending time with toxic people.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” –Jim Rohn (tweet)
There’s an old Mexican saying: tell me who you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are.
You eventually become more like the people you spend most of your time with. Our mindsets, moods, even our mannerisms shift to mirror those of our best friends or partners.
This also includes the bad stuff. Their toxicity will become yours. Their anxiety will become yours, too. Life is hard enough as it is, so nobody needs that extra gunk. Look around at your circle and assign positive or negative feelings to each person, and start to peel away from those who are keeping you from being happy.
2. Being focused on the goal and not enjoying the work.
“It is by being fully involved with every detail of our lives, whether good or bad, that we find happiness, not by trying to look for it directly.” –Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Goals are essential. They give us a sense of clarity and purpose to our days. But being too attached to goals, or the result of our work, can make you miss all the joys that are sprinkled along the way.
One thing you’ll miss if you are too concerned with the end result is a state of flow. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi has spent his whole life detailing this state of mind that happens when you are so immersed in the task at hand that you lose sense of time and being. You are happily in a groove. This state can only happen if you concern yourself with the work itself, what’s right in front of you, not the end of the journey. This way, you’ll enjoy the ride.
3. Thinking of money as a goal, not a tool.
“Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.” –Democritus (tweet)
Guess what? Money is a pretty crappy purveyor of happiness. Money is great at taking away problems or concerns, but not great at consistently bringing us joy. There’s a larger (very interesting) explanation of why that is (i.e. Herzberg’s Motivation Theory), but the gist is this: to find happiness, you have to stop focusing on money so much.Advertising
That does not mean, however, that money has no influence on your sense of happiness. It is influential, but in a roundabout way.
In order to make money work for you and help you be happy, use it to either be generous (more on this below) or to purchase experiences. Experiences include vacations, taking interesting classes, or going on a weekend retreat. These experiences have a more profound and long-lasting happy buzz than does buying an HDTV or a new dress.
4. Being too focused on what you want and not grateful for what you have.
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”–Denis Waitley
If you could buy everything in the world (all the cars, houses, trips, everything), what else would you want? If you have a nagging feeling that there’s still something more out there, then you may need to pause. You need to drop that mindset or else you’ll never be happy.
You, like pretty much everybody else, are not appreciating your current blessings: your job, your friends, your health, your collection of leather-bound books. You are probably taking them for granted, just like I do all the time.
In order to be happy, you need to start with what you have right now. Happiness doesn’t happen in the future when all your wishes come true. It happens when you can appreciate and savor what you have now. That way, whether you have a little or a lot, you’ll always have enough.
5. Comparing your Facebook profile to your friends’.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” –Oscar Wilde (tweet)
Today, everyone is connected (yay!) which also means everyone is comparing themselves to each other (boo!). Facebook, Instagram, Twitter—all of these are social networks that can have a dark side. When you use them to compare your life to the lives of your friends, you start to feel insufficient, boring. You wonder, “Why can’t I have as fun a life as his!”
But it’s not a fair comparison. Social networks are tabloids you can editorialize any way you want, which means we all only show each other the really good stuff. But we forget about that when we compare everybody’s lives to our own. Nobody has a life that’s only full of great food and breath-taking views.
I’ve written more about this on my blog, but the main takeaway here is to stop comparing yourself to your social media peeps. That image you see of them is not the full picture, so don’t be hard on yourself. Be kind.
6. Holding grudges and seeking payback.
“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.” –Robert Muller (tweet)
Remember that guy who cut you off the other day? Or that old lady at the DMV who was really rude? Taking revenge, at a small or large scale, is a pretty common instinct.
But most of the time, we never do anything about it. You just sit there, stewing with thoughts of revenge. “I shoulda told her to go suck a lemon!” Those people who ruined your day will never hear from you. Meanwhile, you are tossing and turning, twisted by anger and bitterness.Advertising
Even if you were to do something, what would you get? Just a new cycle of tit for tat. Today’s fight would sprout tomorrow’s battle.
In order to be happier, you need to just let go.
Let go of that diss.
Let go of that insult.
Wash it off like dirty water. This doesn’t mean you ought to lay over and take it. Not at all; one thing is forgiveness while the other is allowance. But if there’s nothing you can do to prevent it, then try to forgive them for their unkind act. Otherwise, it will keep living in you for way longer than you deserve.
7. Worrying about the plan when there is no plan.
“Happy people plan actions, they don’t plan results.” –Dennis Waitley (tweet)
You grow up thinking that you need a plan for everything. You need a career plan, a marriage plan, a get-happy-by-finding-your-bliss plan. But you quickly find out that all the answers you thought you had are not really there. There are tons of questions, instead. This can make anybody miserable.
Let go of the plan. Life is so immense that any plan you can think of will be somewhat off, at best. And that’s fine. The beauty isn’t in the plan, but in your intentions, your work, and your reactions. To be happy you have to ditch “the plan,” and just try your best. Good stuff will happen, happiness will happen, you just have to let it breathe.
8. Being your own worst critic.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” –Gautama Buddha (tweet)
Human beings are pretty good at being their own worst critics. That rough call you had with your client means you are bad at what you do which means you’ll soon be without a job which will make you homeless and you’ll lose all your friends. I’m exaggerating about the thought process, but not by much.
This is called catastrophizing. To enjoy a happier life, you have to stop beating yourself up.
Here’s one easy way of doing that, developed by Dr. Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness.
Once you start to feel this catastrophic thinking emerge, follow the ABCDE method:Advertising
– A: What adversity just happened?
– B: Because of that adversity, what do you believe now? That you are a bad person?
– C: What did that belief cause you to feel? Are you now angry? Disappointed?
– D: It’s time to disputate. Argue with yourself that your belief is wrong. You are not a bad person, because you’ve always been kind and fair This is just a rare occurrence.
– E: Now that you’ve argued yourself to a healthier thought process, you should feel energized.
9. Giving stress its super power.
“When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage.” –Kelly McGonigal (tweet)
Stress is a silent killer. We all know this, and we all know the litany of deadly consequences it has if left unchecked.
You just need to stop stressing out in order to be happier. No duh, but how do you take the power away from stress?
Easy: re-think the definition of it. Kelly McGonigal has done amazing research on the effects of stress, but, more importantly, how one’s attitude can drastically change its effect on us.
If you view stress as helpful, the adverse side effects plummet or almost completely disappear. Stress loses its power, and you lead happier, healthier lives.
To view stress as helpful, you need to reframe your stress-induced reactions.
Stress is not bad. It’s actually preparing you to rise to the occasion. Your heart is beating faster to prepare you to act. You’re breathing faster because you’re sending more air to your brain so it can react more swiftly. You are sweating because your body is cooling you down so you’re more comfortable.
A simple tweak like this will help you walk away smiling from from stressful situations.Advertising
10. Being too careful with your generosity.
“Being a giver is not good for a 100–yard dash, but it’s valuable in a marathon.” –Adam Grant (tweet)
We live fast-paced lives, where time, energy, and even money are not easy to dish out. In order to survive, you ought to be stingy with yourself and hoard as much as you can.
Maybe. But if you want to be happier, this is horrible advice.
To be happy, you must give. Being generous has been proven to boost your happiness. Any act of generosity can make you feel automatically better about yourself and everything else. It also doesn’t have to be about money. You can be generous with your social connections, your listening, or, like Professor Grant, author of Give and Take, with your time:
Grant incorporates his field’s findings into his own life with methodical rigor: one reason he meets with students four and a half hours in one day rather than spreading it out over the week is that a study found that consolidating giving yields more happiness”
11. Caring about everyone else (in the wrong way).
“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.” –Virginia Woolf (tweet)
We care too much other people, but in the wrong way. We decide what to wear based on what others might think. We are careful with what we say to not upset anyone. We avoid stating our opinions, and the potential conflict therein, to please everybody around us. Essentially, we are imprisoned by other people’s expectations.
To be happy, you have to be you. Whatever that entails, you must be it.
If that means you are a comic book nerd, then nerd on!
If that means you love wearing tie-dye shirts every day, then right on, brother!
Once you stop caring about other people and stop letting them dictate what you are, how you act, and what you like, you’ll achieve an authentic level of happiness that few ever do.
Everybody has their own kind of quirks and weirdness. Most of us just don’t ever show it for fear of being shunned as “different.” But how can you be happy when you are constantly fighting against yourself, not letting your full self enjoy the sunshine? Drop the act, be yourself, and be happier.
Featured photo credit: whologwhy via flickr.comAdvertising
Last Updated on July 20, 2021
How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.
Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:
1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically
According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.
“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor
Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:
If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.
If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.
Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:
- Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
- Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
- Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.
Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.
To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.
Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.
Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.
Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.
Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.
Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:
2. Focus on your goal
One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.
Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’
Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.
Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.
If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.
3. Convert negativity to positivity
There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?
‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’
It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.
Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”
Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.
Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:
4. Understand your content
Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.
However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.
“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor
Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.
Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.
One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.
5. Practice makes perfect
Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.
In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.
Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!
6. Be authentic
There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.
Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.
Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.
To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.
With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.
Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:
7. Post speech evaluation
Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.
Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation
We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.
You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.
Improve your next speech
As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:
- How did I do?
- Are there any areas for improvement?
- Did I sound or look stressed?
- Did I stumble on my words? Why?
- Was I saying “um” too often?
- How was the flow of the speech?
Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.
If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:
- How to Give a Presentation Like a Pro
- 10 Tips for More Effective PowerPoint Presentations
- Tricks to Deliver an Impressive Presentation Every Time
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