If you really want to be happy in life, start saying no to these 9 things (according to psychology)

Happiness is a choice, and it often comes down to what we say no to.

Psychology suggests that there are specific things we should start rejecting to lead a more joy-filled life. It might be easier said than done, but the benefits are worth it.

In this piece, we’re going to delve into the 9 things you need to start saying no to if you really want to be happy.

Prepare for some real talk, as we take a deep dive into this important aspect of our well-being.

Let’s get started. 

1) “No” to people pleasing

Famed psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “The only happy people I know are the ones who are working well at something they consider important.”

And one thing that’s crucially important in life is living for yourself, not others.

In the quest for happiness, it’s vital to say no to pleasing everyone around you. It’s a trap that many fall into, thinking that if they make others happy, they’ll be happy themselves.

But it’s a misconception. Trying to please everyone often leads to neglecting your own needs and desires, and that’s a surefire path to unhappiness.

If you want to be genuinely happy, start saying no to being a people pleaser. It’s not about being selfish or uncaring; it’s about realizing that your happiness matters too.

2) “No” to perfectionism

Carl Jung, the influential psychologist, once said, “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”

As a writer, I’ve found this to be profoundly true. There have been countless times when I’ve sat in front of my laptop, endlessly tweaking a sentence or a paragraph, striving for that elusive perfection.

I would tell myself that it had to be just right – that every single word had to sing. But while I was so focused on achieving this impossible standard, I was also robbing myself of the joy of creation.

Perfectionism can be a happiness killer. It can make you procrastinate, stress over insignificant details, and ultimately sap the joy out of activities you used to love.

So, I made a conscious choice to say no to perfectionism. To accept my work as it is, flaws and all. Sure, I still strive for excellence and put in my best effort – but perfection? That’s off the table.

It’s not always easy, but taking Jung’s words to heart and accepting myself – and my work – completely has made me significantly happier.

3) “No” to comparing yourself to others

The renowned psychologist Albert Ellis said, “The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”

This quote hit me hard. I spent many years looking at other people’s lives and measuring my own against theirs. I would see their successes, their happiness, their seemingly perfect lives, and feel a pang of envy.

I blamed everything but myself for not being where they were. I thought I was dealt a bad hand. But one day, it dawned on me that this kind of comparison was toxic and was robbing me of my happiness.

I decided to say no to comparing myself to others. I realized that everyone has their journey, their struggles, and their victories. And most importantly, I control my destiny.

It’s a raw truth but accepting it was liberating. It made me focus on my life, my happiness, and it definitely made me happier. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy – don’t let it steal yours.

4) “No” to overthinking

I used to dwell on past mistakes, worry about future uncertainties, and over-analyze everything in between. It was exhausting and far from conducive to happiness.

So, I decided to start saying no to overthinking – to accept problems as a natural part of life and stop expecting smooth sailing at all times.

This shift in mindset was not easy, but it was a game-changer. It helped me put my worries in perspective and allowed me to handle difficult situations more calmly.

It’s not the problems that hold us back, but our reaction to them. By saying no to overthinking, you make room for more peace, clarity, and yes – happiness.

5) “No” to constant positivity

“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced,” the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said. 

This statement may seem counterintuitive, but hear me out. Society often pressures us to maintain a constant state of positivity, but that’s not realistic or even healthy.

Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. We experience a range of emotions, from joy to sadness, anger to excitement. All these feelings are part of the human experience and it’s okay to feel them.

I started saying no to the idea of constant positivity. Instead, I allowed myself to feel all emotions, even the uncomfortable ones. I found that by acknowledging and accepting these feelings, rather than trying to suppress or ignore them, I felt more balanced and, surprisingly, happier.

It’s okay not to be okay all the time. Life is a reality to be experienced in its entirety, not just the positive parts.

6) Living with a bloated ego

We all have an ego. It’s that part of us that desires recognition, craves superiority, and hates being wrong. But when our ego starts to inflate, it can seriously hinder our happiness.

I’ve experienced this firsthand. There were times when my ego got the better of me, causing rifts in relationships and creating unnecessary stress. As I delved deeper into the teachings of Buddhism, I realized that a bloated ego was doing me more harm than good.

In my book, Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego, I explore how Buddhist teachings can guide us to deflate the ego without diminishing our self-worth or ambition.

When we learn to say ‘no’ to an inflated ego, we open up space for empathy, patience, and understanding – qualities that contribute significantly to a happier life.

Humility isn’t about thinking less of yourself; it’s about thinking of yourself less and focusing on the bigger picture. That is where true happiness resides.

7) “No” to overworking

Psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”

For a long time, I misinterpreted this quote. I thought it meant I had to work tirelessly, push myself to the limits, and achieve as much as possible to realize my potential.

But I was wrong. Overworking led to burnout, stress, and ironically, made me less productive. It took a toll on my health and happiness.

I decided to say no to overworking. To understand that being the best version of myself didn’t mean working all the time. It meant achieving a balance – taking time for rest, recreation, and self-care.

We are human beings, not human doings. It’s okay to take a break, to relax, to just be. It doesn’t make you less capable; it makes you more balanced and happier in the long run.

8) “No” to ignoring your feelings

The renowned psychologist Carl Rogers once said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

I’ve always been a bit of a stoic, brushing off my feelings as if they were unimportant. But one day, it dawned on me – ignoring my feelings was doing me more harm than good. It was a form of self-rejection, and it was stunting my growth and happiness.

So, I decided to say no to ignoring my feelings. Instead, I chose to acknowledge them, understand them, and accept them. It was a raw and honest process that required me to be vulnerable with myself.

But it was worth it. Accepting my feelings allowed me to understand myself better and catalyzed positive changes in my life.

Acceptance is the first step towards change. By acknowledging and accepting your feelings, you pave the way for greater self-understanding and happiness.

9) “No” to the fear of failure

It was psychologist Sigmund Freud who once said, “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”

This might sound counterintuitive. After all, who finds beauty in struggle, let alone failure?

But the truth is, our fear of failing often holds us back from taking risks and striving for our dreams. It paralyzes us, keeping us stuck in our comfort zones.

So, I learned to say no to the fear of failure. Instead of seeing failure as a terrifying outcome, I started to see it as a stepping stone to success – a valuable opportunity to learn and grow.

Every struggle is an opportunity in disguise. By embracing failure rather than fearing it, we can unlock our true potential and lead happier lives.


In our pursuit of happiness, it’s crucial to understand what we need to say ‘no’ to.

From overcommitting ourselves to ignoring our emotions, these habits can hinder our path to genuine happiness.

By consciously choosing to let go of these behaviors and embracing the teachings of mindfulness and Buddhism, we can lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Buddhism can guide us towards a life of maximum impact and minimal ego, I invite you to check out my book, Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego.

In it, I delve deeper into Buddhist teachings and their practical applications in our everyday lives.

The journey towards happiness is a personal one, filled with unique challenges and triumphs. Embrace it, learn from it, and most importantly, enjoy every step of the way.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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