“Simply put, you believe that things or people make you unhappy, but this is not accurate. You make yourself unhappy.”
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
It is usually pretty easy to become a happier person.
It is also quite easy to rob yourself of your own happiness.
To make yourself more miserable and add a big bowl of suffering to your day. It is a common thing, people do it every day all over the world.
So this week I’d like to combine these two things. I want to share 7 happiness stealing habits that I have had quite a bit of trouble with in my own daily life (and I know from the emails I get that many of you do too).
But I’d also like to add what you can do instead if you find yourself being stuck in one of these destructive habits.
1. Going for a daily swim in a sea of negative voices.
This one can be quite subtle.
You just go around in your daily life like you usually do. Hang out with the same people. Listen to the same podcasts or radio shows, watch the same old TV-shows and read the usual blogs, books and magazines.
But what influence do these things have over your thinking and the limits you set for yourself and what you feel you deserve in life?
Make a list of the 5 people you hang out with the most and the 5 media sources you spend most time on during your week.
Then ask yourself this for each of these 10 things/people: is this one dragging me down or lifting me up in life?
Consider spending less time with the ones that drag you down (or cut them out completely) and to spend more of your time with the people and sources that lift you up and make you feel good, motivated etc.
If you have trouble getting started with this one, then go smaller.
Take a few minutes to think about what one person or source that has the biggest negative impact on you. And how you can start to spend less time with it/him/her this week.
When you have a dream then it is so easy to get lost in planning how you will accomplish it. To drift away in daydreams about how it will be. But also to get stuck in fears about failing with it.
So you make a common choice and wait – and wait and wait for maybe years – for just the right time to take action and get started with making that dream into something real.
What to do instead:
Sure, not every dream is something you can get started with right now.
But there are many that you can get going with. Dreams that only fear is holding you back from.
So make things easy on yourself. You don’t have to do it in a big and extremely courageous jump.
Instead, take a small step forward. Take one small action.
That is it.
Then tomorrow you can take another small step forward.
The important thing is that you get started and get going instead spending so much time on just waiting and feeling more and more frustrated and unhappy about the state of your dreams.
3. Letting criticism get under your skin time and time again.
When someone criticizes or verbally attacks you then it may just roll off you like water of the back of a duck.
But if it on the other hand gets under your skin pretty much every time and drags you down into hours or days of self-doubt or self-beatings then you have a problem.
What to do instead:
- Let it out. Talk it over with someone close to you to let the inner tensions out. And to find a healthier perspective on what happened together.
- Remember: it is not always about you. If your self-esteem is low them it is easy to start thinking that all the negative things people tell you are your fault in some way. That is however often not the case. People will attack or harshly criticize to let their own steam out. Because they have had an awful day, week or simply do not like their lives that much. So don’t think it is all about you. There are two of you in this situation.
4. Focusing on the wrong people and getting lost in envy and powerlessness
When you spend much time in your day thinking about what other people have and do and you compare your life to theirs then you have a good recipe for unhappiness.
Because you spend the attention and energy in the wrong place.
What to do instead:
Focus on you. Compare yourself to yourself.
See how far you have come. The obstacles you have overcome. How you have improved in small or sometimes bigger ways. Appreciate that and yourself.
Focus not on what others have but on what YOU deep down want in your life.
And ask yourself: what is one small step I can take today to get the ball rolling with this goal/dream?
Keep your focus on yourself and what you can actually do to raise your self-confidence, to start walking on your own path and to spend your limited daily time and energy on something that will actually pay off.
5. Not allowing yourself times of peace and rest during your day.
When you are busy, busy, busy all the time and give yourself no time to recharge then you soon become fatigued.
And so each step and each thing you do starts to feel heavier and you do not get much enjoyment at all out of pushing and pulling yourself through it.
What to do instead:
- Take a break every hour. Try setting the timer on your cell phone for 45 minutes. During that time-period just focus on doing your most important task at the moment. Then, as the bell rings, set the timer for 15 minutes and step away from your workspace. Have a snack, talk a walk or stretch a bit. By cycling rest and fully focused work like this you’ll get more things done, do a better job and it will be easier to keep the optimism and motivation up.
- Be 10 minutes early. Transform those traveling times during your day into relaxing breaks instead of passages of time and space that only increase your stress levels and other negative feelings.
6. Never trying anything new.
This one can be sneaky.
It can make you think that things are pretty OK. You have your safe and comfortable routine.
I know, I have been there for long stretches of time.
But during those times there was also denial of feeling dissatisfied. A vague feeling of standing still that sometimes bloomed up into a big burst of undefined, negative feelings directed towards the world or myself.
What to do instead:
- Remind yourself of the past times when you tried something new. And how you most often did not regret it one bit but had an exciting, interesting or fun time.
- Go small. You don’t have to try skydiving. Just take one small step and try some new and different music, a movie or book you would normally not go for or the vegetarian dish if you usually have the beef or sausage for lunch.
- Say yes just once this week when your mind says no. If a friend invites you to go out running, doing yoga or to go fishing or to a party and your mind goes “let’s say no, that is not what I usually do” then stop yourself for a second. And reconsider. You don’t have to say yes to every suggestion you get this week to try something new, but give it a shot and say yes to just one of those things.
7. Taking things too seriously.
When you take life too seriously then it is easy to become so afraid of making a mistake and of stumbling a bit that you get paralyzed in analysis.
When you take yourself too seriously then, in my experience, it becomes difficult to fully enjoy the moment and what is happening, to let go of the past and to laugh about yourself and life when you need it the most.
What to instead:
- Put up a reminder. When I wanted to develop a lighter mindset quite a few years ago one thing that helped me was a simple note on fridge that said: Lighten Up! This reminder helped me to snap out of overly serious thoughts several times a day until this way of finding a lighter perspective became more and more of an automatic thought habit.
- Surround yourself with lighter mindsets. As mentioned in the section about habit #1, what and who you surround yourself with will have a big effect on how you think. No matter if it is a positive or negative aspect they add. So one powerful thing to do is to add lighter mindsets via people, books, the internet etc. to your daily life.
- Raise your self-esteem. I have found that as my self-esteem has gone up I can laugh about myself more because I am less defensive. I have more trust in myself and so I fear a temporary failure less. And I like myself more and so I am less concerned about getting everyone else to like me all the time.
You can use this article as a manual for your everyday growth and improvement.