“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.com
Last Updated on December 10, 2019
5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today
Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.
Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?
But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.
Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.
But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:
Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.
Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.
Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:
1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals
By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.
Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?
But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.
The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.
2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus
If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.
How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.
Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.
You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.
3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding
As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.
Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?
All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.
4. Journals Track Your Overall Development
Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.
Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.
The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.
5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth
The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”
It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.
How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?
Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.
Here’s what you can do to start journaling:
- 15 Inspiring Journal Ideas to Set You up for Success
- How to Bullet Journal to Skyrocket Your Productivity
- Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide)
Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com