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20 Things You Need To Stop Doing If You Want To Be Happy

20 Things You Need To Stop Doing If You Want To Be Happy

As a society, happiness is our holy grail. We spend billions of dollars on self-help each year, consuming books, audio, seminars, and more, all in pursuit of happiness.

We often blame external factors for our lack of happiness, including our jobs, friends, family, love life (of lack of), living situation, etc. In reality, however, we all have the capacity to feel happiness on any given day, and most of the time the biggest obstacle to happiness is us getting in our own way.

Here are 20 things you need to stop doing if you want to be happy:

1. Involving yourself in drama

Drama is the antithesis of happiness, yet if we’re caught unawares it can be easy to get caught up in it. Some people thrive on drama; being a victim or a rescuer gives them a sense of purpose. If you want to be happy, however, you need to become aware of any victim/rescuer tendencies you might have yourself, and be wary of relationships with other people who fall into these roles too.

2. Pursuing unrealistic expectations

We’re taught from a very young age that we’re special and can do anything with our lives. The truth is that, while most of us have wonderful qualities, gifts, and skills, we’re all still human. If you want to be happy, focus on accepting where you are right now rather than pursuing unrealistic expectations, and you might find that what you’ve been looking for was right here all along.

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3. Settling for less than what you really want

Settling for less than you really want might feel like a good compromise in the moment, but it will breed resentment in the long-term. If you want to be happy, practice communicating what you want and need to others.

4. Always saying yes

Whenever we say “yes” to something, we’re saying “no” to something else. Make sure you’re saying yes only to the things that align with your priorities and values.

5. Always saying no

As with saying yes, the art of saying no in a way that serves us is about finding balance. Feel free to say no when it feels right, but make sure you’re not closing yourself off to new experiences and opportunities that might enhance your life in the future.

6. Living in the past

When we spend most of our time living in the past, we end up feeling out of control of our lives, stuck in a victim mentality, and missing out on opportunities in the present. If you find yourself drifting into the past, practice shifting your focus to your breathing and reorient yourself in the present.

7. Comparing yourself to others

As humans, we thrive in communities and want to feel a sense of belonging, so a level of comparison is natural. If you find yourself beating yourself up for not matching up to other people’s achievements, however, it’s time to rethink what role comparison is playing in your life. Instead of focusing on what you envy, focus on what you admire and use that to inspire yourself in the future.

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8. Criticising yourself

As a coach, I repeatedly hear clients saying “But I need to be hard on myself, otherwise how will I get anything done?” In reality, self-criticising doesn’t help, because what we focus on grows. When we criticise ourselves, we focus on what’s wrong, we find more and more evidence of our flaws and defects, and we get stuck in a self-defeating cycle. When we’re compassionate and kind to ourselves, however, we’re more likely to expand and grow.

9. Focusing on material possessions

We equate material possessions with wealth and success, but it’s experiences that lead to happiness. Material possessions provide a fleeting high, then act as more of a distraction than anything else. Try downsizing just one room and notice how liberating it feels.

10. Putting other people first all the time

We’re raised to believe that putting other people first is the right thing to do. In reality, we need to put on our own oxygen mask before we can help other people. If we keep putting other people first without attending to our own needs, we’ll end up burned out and unhappy.

11. Focusing on what you “should” do

The word “should” is always a warning sign that you’re trying to squeeze yourself into a box that doesn’t fit you. Instead, ask yourself “Do I really want to do this?” and listen for your internal answer.

12. Attaching false meaning to situations and conversations

It’s a natural human tendency to fill in the gaps in situations in order to make sense of them. The downside of this, however, is that we often attach meaning to conversations and interactions where there is none. Instead of jumping to conclusions, try keeping an open, objective mind.

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13. Waiting for inspiration/motivation/courage

Many of us have big dreams of writing a novel, running a marathon, taking up painting, and so on. Yet, we don’t do these things because we’re waiting for inspiration, motivation, and/or courage. The truth is that these feelings only come if we take action first. Instead of waiting to feel a certain way, just do the thing you really want to do, and you’ll find that you feel inspired, motivated, and encouraged in no time.

14. Living in the future

Just as living in the past hampers our happiness, so does living in an imaginary future. Practice refocusing on the present and noticing all there is to enjoy in the here and now.

15. Falling for the “When I have X, I’ll be happy” myth

We’ve all had thoughts like “When I lose that last 10 pounds, then I’ll be happy”, or “When I get that raise, then I’ll be happy”, or “When I live in the countryside, then I’ll be happy”, only to find that we lose the weight, get the raise, or move to the countryside and our goalposts have shifted to a new “When I have X, then I’ll be happy” equation. Rather than getting stuck in a hypothetical future, take time each day to make a list of things you feel happy about right here, right now.

16. Depending on other people to make you happy

We are responsible for our own happiness. Putting that burden on other people is unfair and ruins relationships. If you want to be happy, you need to take ownership of your feelings and start figuring out what you can do to deepen your satisfaction with life.

17. Focusing on what you don’t have, rather than what you do

As I mentioned earlier, what we focus on grows. If we’re constantly focusing on what we don’t have, we’re more likely to overlook what we do and feel more despondent and dissatisfied as a result. If we focus on what we do have, however, we’re more likely to overlook the things we don’t have, and feel more content and happy.

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18. Focusing on what you’re against, rather than what you’re for

Using a similar principle as no. 17, if we spend our time focusing on what we’re against, we’re going to end up looking at the world through darkened glasses. If we focus on what we’re for, however, we’re more likely to feel a sense of optimism and possibility.

19. Trying to be someone you’re not

Although people-pleasing is born out of wanting to be accepted and fit in, it’s one of the most common barriers to happiness. When we change ourselves to gain validation from other people, we will never feel happy and fulfilled. Even if we get that validation, we know deep down that it’s not us the person is validating, it’s the person we’re pretending to be.

Instead of focusing on how you think other people might want you to be, focus on showing up as you really are.

20. Believing that happiness is a destination

Happiness is a process rather than a state of being. It’s something we can foster each and every day, rather than being a destination we arrive at. What this means is that we don’t need to wait for everything to fall into place to feel happy; if we make time to use these suggestions, make subtle shifts in the way we view our lives, and focus on what’s going well rather than what’s not, we’ll start to notice a difference from day one.

What have you stopped doing in order to be happy? Leave a comment and let us know.

 

Featured photo credit: Bang via mrg.bz

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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