Being happy in life isn’t just about the things we say yes to. It’s just as much about the things we say no to.
All too often we stand in our own way and we don’t even know it.
That’s because we’ve picked up some bad habits along the way.
But don’t fret, recognizing them is the first step to kicking them into touch once and for all.
So if you want lasting happiness in life, it’s time to say goodbye to these 11 toxic habits…
1) Ignoring what is right in front of you
One of the biggest differences in my day-to-day happiness is how well I pay attention to the good things in the here and now.
Let me explain:
If I get too caught up in thinking about what I’d like more of, I always end up feeling discontent with what I already have.
For example, longing for the next vacation or wishing for more money in the bank.
Daydreaming and making plans for the future can feel good. But only when it’s balanced by an appreciation for what you have right now.
Because when I practice gratitude it always makes me feel instantly better.
Simply listing the many blessings that exist in this very moment brings a sense of contentment.
2) Being so hard on yourself
Most of us would benefit from being kinder to ourselves.
The sad reality is that all too often we can be our own worst enemy.
We beat ourselves up about so many things.
We chastise ourselves for our perceived flaws and imperfections.
Because when we do, 9 times out of 10 it only serves to demotivate us.
It eats away at our self-love and self-respect.
The tricky part is that we don’t always notice when we’re doing it.
We get so used to hearing that critical inner voice that it goes unchallenged.
If we want to be happier, we have to learn to question that voice and replace it with a more self-compassionate one.
3) Constantly comparing yourself to others
It’s a losing game whenever we compare ourselves to others.
Because the fact is there will always be someone who from the outside appears far better off than you.
Every single one of us is unique, and so is our journey through life.
Looking around at what everyone else is doing only sidetracks you from your own path.
It can bring up feelings of envy and jealousy, even though you never know what someone else’s life is like from the inside.
At best, it is a pointless distraction. At worst, it is a breeding ground for dissatisfaction.
Kicking this toxic habit into touch might become easier if we can avoid the next thing on our list.
4) Excessively consuming social media
I’m not going to bash social media platforms. They can be fun and useful tools to connect with those around us.
But like plenty of pleasures in life, they also come with a dark side.
They’re designed to keep us hooked as they give us that same dopamine hit as gambling and recreational drugs.
Psychologists estimate as many as 5-10% of Americans could qualify as having a social media addiction.
Just like any addiction, we tend to use it to hide from real life and our feelings.
There’s no escaping the links between excessive social media use and increased risk for depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, loneliness, poor body image, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts.
Bringing more mindfulness to our online use strengthens our lasting happiness.
5) Overly dissecting your decisions
It’s smart to think things through. You know what they say, only fools rush in, right?
But there comes a point when we fall into overthinking. When we do, it does more harm than good.
The problem is that fear and anxiety can trap us in our thoughts and lead to needless worry.
Rather than being thorough about our decision-making, we simply become stressed out.
It’s okay to weigh up your options, but it’s important to remember that we can never predict how things will turn out.
Sometimes we need to bite the bullet and go with our instincts.
Taking action is more important. Otherwise, we can end up staying stuck.
When you do, you may find yourself doing the next thing on our list.
6) Finding excuses not to make a start
Otherwise known as procrastination, this habit of delaying happens in many areas of our lives.
It’s not just putting off that chore that we’ve been avoiding until tomorrow.
Unfortunately, it happens in far more significant matters.
We do it with our plans, goals and ambitions.
We tell ourselves we need more time, money, knowledge, etc. before we can make a start.
We look for things to justify why we’re not embracing life and the opportunities that may come along.
But more often than not, these delay tactics come from fear rather than practical constraints.
7) Falling into people-pleasing
It’s admittedly a tricky balancing act.
We live in societies where cooperation is important.
Undoubtedly the relationships we form are significant when it comes to our happiness and well-being.
So I’m not going to sit here and say you shouldn’t give a damn what anyone else thinks.
But when we care too much about what other people think of us, we can end up putting our own needs behind others.
- Saying yes to things you don’t want to do
- Living your life to suit others
- Betraying your own values and beliefs to keep the peace
When you become afraid to be who you really are for fear of treading on other people’s toes, you can never find genuine happiness.
8) Complaining non-stop
Negativity quickly becomes a habit.
Thanks to the way our brain works, we literally end up hardwiring our minds to reach for pessimistic and complaining thoughts first.
That means every throw-away whine and moan that we have leaves a lasting imprint.
I get it, life can suck.
We all have bad days. Little annoyances can creep up on you and frustrate the heck out of you.
It can be cathartic to get it off your chest, but too much is toxic.
We have to be mindful of the thoughts we feed ourselves. Otherwise, we end up robbing ourselves of our own happiness.
9) Holding onto grudges
I have a friend who was cheated on by her fiance and they subsequently broke up.
I know, it’s horrible. It understandably shook her world and hurt her deeply.
But here’s the thing:
10 years later, he is long gone, but she is still holding on to it.
That bitterness she felt towards him, she turned on herself.
It meant she refused to trust another man. She has been single since and still will take any opportunity she can to talk about how he “ruined her life”.
But here’s the brutal truth:
Her inability to let go and move on is what is ruining her life.
Yes, he did a bad thing to her, but everything in the ten years after, she is doing to herself.
Forgiveness isn’t about letting someone else off the hook. It’s not about saying what happened is okay.
It doesn’t even have to involve them.
I know it’s not easy, but forgiveness is about deciding to put the pain you are carrying down so that it doesn’t eat away at you.
10) Wallowing in self-pity
Time for another tough love truth:
Feeling sorry for yourself ultimately turns you into a victim.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s not the same as showing yourself some important TLC.
We deserve to be compassionate towards our feelings and needs.
But spinning a ‘woe is me’ narrative only disempowers you.
It’s tempting to sulk when we don’t get our own way. We may feel like life is out to get us.
But lamenting that “It’s not fair” isn’t going to change anything.
It’s important to know how to pick ourselves up when life knocks us down.
We do this by learning to accept the things we cannot change and focusing our energy on the things we can.
11) Pushing away the “bad” thoughts and feelings
This may sound contradictory. After all, I’ve just said how feeling sorry for yourself is a waste of time.
But it’s also important not to fall into this common trap in pursuit of happiness:
Thinking that the aim of life is to always feel good. Because that’s impossible.
Finding lasting happiness does not mean never experiencing difficult times. Life is contrast, whether we like it or not.
There will always be good times and bad times. Both are needed to give us perspective.
It turns into toxic positivity when we try to focus solely on the bright side of life.
It’s important to acknowledge our bad days, sad thoughts, and hurt feelings. We just have to try to do so without attaching to them and getting stuck.
A happy life is an emotionally healthy one with authentic expression.
Happiness really is a choice
Well, it is and it isn’t.
We cannot always choose our mood or how we feel about something.
We cannot choose factors that are out of our control.
We can’t magically click our fingers and be happy.
But what shapes our happiness in the long run is a choice.
It’s one we make every day through the habits we choose to adopt and the mindset we choose to cultivate.
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