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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

More by this author

Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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