“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 November 4, 2020
15 Simple Ways To Make Self Improvement That Will Change Your Life
Self-improvement doesn’t have to be big mind-blowing changes; it can actually be simple steps to improve upon what you already have to get you where you want to be. However, what you will need is consistency, determination and wiliness to try some things that will stretch and challenge you.
Rather than setting your sights way off into the future, which leaves you feeling like you’ll never make it, you can start following these simple and effective self-improvement steps today. So if you want to make an immediate impact on your life and are willing to take action, then keep reading— you’ll going to love these!
1. Be willing to work hard.
As with anything in life, if you want something, you’ve got to work hard to get it. This doesn’t mean you burn the candle at both ends, leaving you exhausted and leaving your personal life in ruins. It merely means that when you want something badly enough, you’ll put in the time to get there. Action is what’s important here and the more ‘inspired’ the action is, the better the results in the end.
2. Make sure you have friends who you can talk to.
Sharing the load is important as with any self-improvement. If you can communicate with others and get feedback on how you are doing then that’s great. We all need ‘cheerleaders’ in our corner to keep us going when times get hard, but you also need to have people who will tell you how it is even when you don’t want to hear it. So make sure you have a good support network around you, especially those people whose opinions you respect.
3. Adapt to your circumstances rather than over-thinking them.
Sometimes, we can hit a hard period. Perhaps you’ve lost your job or your partner has left you. Instead of over analyzing the situation, learn to adapt to your circumstances and accept them as they are. It’s not about making your circumstances into some kind of a drama; remember, what you focus on expands which means you’ll get more of it. You then don’t become your problems and you’ll feel a lot less burdened by them.
4. Ensure that you use your time wisely.
Time is of the essence, some might say; whilst others will say that time is an illusion. One thing we do know is that you have one life on this planet, so how you use that time is of the utmost importance. So how can you use your time wisely? Only you know how to do that, but look at how you currently spend your days: do you sit working all day, get home, eat and then sit slumped in front of the TV for the rest of the evening? Your time on this earth is precious, so isn’t it time to make use of the time you have left? Try something new, go for a walk, learn a new language or meditate but make sure it’s something you absolutely love.
5. Always be consistent.
A wonderful way to self-improvement is to make changes to how you do things. For example, with your friends, are you always the unreliable one who bows out of an arrangement just before it happens? Or are you someone who starts a new exercise routine and then stops doing it 3 weeks into it? Whatever it is and whatever you do, always be consistent. When you make a commitment, stick to it. It will improve your life immeasurably you’ll feel more confident and happier with yourself, especially because you’ll know that whatever you tackle, you’ll be able to consistently do it!
6. Go and find your happy place.
No, I’m not saying “place” as in popping to your local bar or restaurant and gorging yourself on your favorite drinks or food. What I’m saying is to find out what you love to do, what makes you happy and go there. Your happy place is a place where you find peace, where you lose yourself and feel contented. Meditation is a great way to find your happy place; it brings you back to you and ensures that you are always living in the present moment.
7. Make sure you embrace all your emotions.
In life you are going to find that it throws you some difficult challenges, sometimes it will bring out your fears and lead you into uncertainty, and other times it will be joyful. It’s important to embrace all emotions that come up in your life, embrace them wholeheartedly and understand why they are there and then let them go. Try not to dismiss or resist them because remember “what you resist, persists,” so embrace them each and every time.
8. Always be prepared to step out of your comfort zone.
The idea of stepping out of your comfort zone for some people can leave you paralyzed with fear; however for any changing in your life, your comfort zone will always have to be stepped out of. It doesn’t have to be something big, like doing a sky-dive or something just as crazy. However, it’s worthwhile to change something that you’d once have feared, like going to the cinema on your own or eating at a sushi restaurant when the thought of trying raw fish which would normally mean you running for the hills.
So try something new—it doesn’t have to be wacky, but it has to challenge you!
9. Be on hand to help others.
Whether it’s helping a stranger on the street or a family member or a friend helping someone else either in their time of need, lending a helping hand is a wonderful and simple self-improvement to make. Giving to others is not only beneficial to those you are helping but also to yourself; it can give you a sense of purpose, of contribution and also takes your mind of your own troubles and worries.
10. Live in the present moment.
A wonderful self-improvement tool is to live in the present moment, to live in the now. It is within this moment that you’ll appreciate all that you have and see the beauty in the simplest of things. Being mindful of your current circumstances and bringing your mind back to where it belongs will bring about a happier way of life instead of constant worry or stressing about the past or future—both of which do not exist. Only the present moment exists. When you get used to living that way, you’ll never want to go back!
11. Learn something new.
There is nothing so liberating as learning something new; it can lift both your confidence and self-esteem and give you a great reason to meet new people. If you continually top up your brain activity by learning something new all the time, you’ll feel on top of your game and want to share the knowledge you have learned. There is nothing quite so empowering as learning a new tool in life that can either improve your circle of friends or raise confidence levels—or both!
Reading is also a great way to help you learn something new:
12. Exercise daily.
This seems an obvious one, but exercise is so important not only to your health but also to your spirit. We all know that after exercise, the world can feel a brighter and more positive place, so why don’t we do it more often? Exercise isn’t about getting the perfect body or losing weight; it’s more about feeling good inside and out! With a healthy body comes a healthy mind—so start something today. Even if it’s just a daily walk, it’s better than staying on that couch, again.
13. Go to new places, travel a bit.
I’m not saying go fly off to some far away distant forgotten land—although you can if you so wish. It’s more about going to new places and experiencing life outside of your own back yard. Too many of us stay in one place too often. We only see the same people, the same streets and do the same things each and every day. If you want to improve your life, get out there and see the world and what it can offer. You can start by going to a town or city you’ve never been to in your own country and checking out the architecture, the landscapes and the people. Anything new is good, so get out there!
14. Listen to uplifting music and dance.
If there’s one thing that can really improve your life and get you excited about it, it’s listening to great uplifting music and dancing. When was the last time you really let go? Let it all hang loose and got into a piece of music and let yourself go? Dancing, like exercise, makes you feel great. It releases all kinds of emotions and can make you feel unbelievably good. Self-improvement isn’t all about the serious stuff; it can be something as simple as finding new music, music that inspires you and makes you dance and have fun!
15. Get up earlier than normal.
This is the last one, and it’s last because it’s one of those self-improvement tips that we all know is a good thing, yet we seem to avoid it at all costs! If you think about it, the earliest part of the day is when your brain is most active because it’s been turned off for the last 7 hours or so. So don’t you think it’s best to get all those things above done in the morning? Things like exercise, meditation and dancing, which can all be done in the first part of the day. Take it from me: this early morning stuff can really get your day started with a bang!
More on Self-Improvement
Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com