Happiness lies in the small, everyday things.
It’s truly our routines that dictate most of our lives, more so than the large, grand events that we occasionally experience.
We might not even realize that some habits bar us from experiencing greater life satisfaction. If we want to be happier, we need to start letting them go.
After all, people often think that happiness is in the things we gain or accomplish—but sometimes it’s also in the things we set ourselves free from.
Now, I don’t have life all figured out (who has?), but in my experience, these were 10 of the biggest habits that made me unhappy.
So, if you can’t remember the last time you felt truly happy, say goodbye to these 10 habits.
1) Overthinking the small things
Here’s a saying that changed my life: it’s called the 5×5 rule.
If something won’t matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes thinking about it.
This hit me in the gut as a chronic overthinker. I mistook practicing mindfulness for obsessively analyzing things.
I would agonize over past conversations, or sometimes, I’d overthink the little details of a project at work.
I would literally spend hours pacing around in a room thinking about it, visualizing it, worrying if it would turn out well…
…that I’d cut my time short and end up procrastinating actually doing the project!
Most of the time, we all just need to take a deep breath (or a big gulp of water, or a nice hot shower, or a nice nap, or whatever you need).
2) Making comparisons to others
Here’s another (albeit more cliche) line: Theodore Roosevelt once said that comparison is the thief of joy.
Yeah, you’ve heard that before, right?
But did you actually follow it? It became a popular saying for a reason.
I know it’s so hard when we live in the age of social media. At the tip of your fingerprints, you can see your peers’ vacation photos, career progress, or new purchases.
But we need to remember that social media is full of curated photos that mostly show the highlights of our lives.
In reality, we all have messy, complex lives. Everyone is just trying their best to get along. I promise you, you’re doing just fine.
We all have our own journey. And even if someone else is further along their journey, it doesn’t affect you in the slightest.
Put your head down, stay in your lane, and focus on your own journey to happiness!
3) Repressing your emotions
Emotions aren’t bad. Tell yourself that in the mirror a thousand times if you have to.
Emotions aren’t bad. Emotions aren’t bad. Emotions aren’t bad.
I’m not saying they’re necessarily good either, but our ability to feel emotions is one of the main things that make us human.
It’s such a sad thing that we live in a society that teaches us to be cold and stoic all for the sake of productivity and profit, no?
Living an emotionally healthy life comes down to three things:
- Feeling your emotions fully, but not letting them control you (you control them!);
- Being open about them with loved ones and in turn, emotionally supporting them too—you need this for genuine connection;
- Realizing that it doesn’t matter what you feel; it’s about how you see them and how you act about them.
4) Over-worrying about the future
Activist Eleanor Roosevelt once said: Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why we call it ‘The Present.’
We live in the here and now, not the future.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t prepare for the future—we obviously still need to. But it shouldn’t come at the cost of sacrificing too much of the present.
Because at the end of the day, we don’t know what will happen in the future. We can never truly, fully prepare for it. Spending all your time on it will just lead to anxiety and stress.
I once had a friend who was hellbent on retiring early. He’d work unimaginable hours, neglecting his family and his social life.
One day at work, he had a heart attack and died, and he never got to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
Not to be morbid, but tomorrow is never promised. Prepare for it, but remember that happiness is not an end goal but a constant state of being. It’s not a product; it’s a process.
5) Letting technology control you
Technology is an amazing thing.
But it can also be an incredibly dangerous one. Just think of these:
- Binge-watching on Netflix…
- Spending an entire night gaming…
- Connecting through friends and family through social media…
- Being in awe at the latest gadgets and technological advancements…
I do and enjoy these things as much as anyone!
But we also can’t let technology consume our whole lives.
There is a profound irony in the fact that never has the world been so connected, yet we’re experiencing all-time levels of isolation, depression, and loneliness.
True connection and happiness rely far more than what we can do on a screen.
We need to unplug every so often and touch grass, as the youngsters like to call it.
6) Neglecting your passions
We spend most of our time working. Neglecting the things you genuinely enjoy and are passionate about is a highway to misery.
You might say:
- But it’s childish…
- But I need to make money…
- But there are more important things to do…
No! Your enjoyment is important. Fun is important.
You are not a robot, okay?
We all have jobs and families and responsibilities, I get it.
But you have a responsibility to yourself as well. We all deserve to enjoy life and rest a bit. Besides, you’re going to burn out and do poorly at the things you need to do if you don’t do the things you want to do.
And so you need to do the things you want to do either way!
7) Staying in your comfort zone
Comfort isn’t happiness, and complacency isn’t “knowing your limits.”
Limits are meant to be tested and broken—that’s how you keep growing!
Life can be daunting, and with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it can be extremely difficult to find the time and energy to try out new things.
But trust me, you’ll regret staying where you are all the time.
Even if you end up embarrassing yourself or not doing well at whatever you sought to do, you’ll at least feel proud of yourself for having the courage to try.
I’m a sucker for those videos where they ask the elderly about the things they regret in life. You know what I’ve noticed?
They almost always regret the things they didn’t do than the things they did.
8) Clutching on to the past
The weight of the past can be heavy.
Regrets, mistakes, traumas—heck, even being overly attached to people or achievements from the past—all these can impede your happiness now and in the future.
We carry it around around like a sack of rocks, sometimes unaware that we’re doing so.
I implore everyone to reflect on whether they’ve been doing this and to start letting go of those rocks, even if you have to do it one at a time.
It doesn’t mean that you should forget the past (because that’s a grave mistake, too). It doesn’t mean that you can’t reminisce or feel nostalgic or that you can’t learn from the past.
It simply means putting it where it belongs: behind you.
9) Going through life on autopilot
The grind of everyday life can be monotonic. You settle into a routine that best fits your job, home life, and preferences.
The days blur together into one big blob that you call life.
Before you know it, you’re asking where all the time went.
Again, you’re human. You’re not a robot.
And because you’re human, it means that you have all but one shot at this crazy ride called life.
Living on autopilot is not living—it’s just being alive, it’s just existing. And there’s a stark, stark difference between existing and living.
Don’t let life pass you by. Grab it by the wrist and take it where you want to!
10) Focusing on the negative
Humans are, unfortunately hardwired to remember negative occurrences than positive ones.
It’s why you remember that one insult someone told you decades ago far more vividly than the dozens of small compliments you’ve received this month.
It makes sense if we look at it purely from the point of view of survival: the more brain space these negative memories take up, the more aware we are of remembering them.
But just because something is natural doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good or right.
Overly focusing on the negative will only make you bitter and jaded. It blinds you to the good things in your life and renders you unable to enjoy them as a result.
You deserve happiness. We all do.
But happiness is a choice you need to make.
Yes, some things are just undoubtedly out of our control. Sometimes, they lead to genuinely saddening stuff.
But in choosing to make the most out of what we are dealt with…
In choosing to see the beauty of the bigger picture of life…
In choosing to be ge grateful, to persevere, and to love…
…we can eke out a happy, meaningful existence—whatever that may mean for you.
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