If you want true inner happiness, start saying “no” to these 8 things

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There’s a profound distinction between contentment and true inner happiness.

Contentment is easy. It’s about staying in your comfort zone and avoiding conflict. True inner happiness, however, requires a bit more. It’s about making tough choices, setting boundaries, and sometimes, saying “no”.

Now, I’m Lachlan Brown, founder of Hack Spirit, and I’ve spent a fair bit of my life studying mindfulness and Buddhism. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that saying “no” to certain things isn’t just healthy—it’s essential for achieving true inner happiness.

In this article, I’ll share with you the 8 things you need to start saying “no” to if you want to cultivate that deep-seated joy within yourself. Trust me – it’s simpler than you think.

1) Negativity

One of the key things I’ve noticed in my journey through mindfulness and Buddhism is the profound impact of our environment on our inner state.

And by ‘environment’, I’m not just talking about physical surroundings. I’m also referring to the kind of attitudes, mindsets, and energy we surround ourselves with.

Negativity, whether it’s constant complaining, cynicism, or a generally pessimistic perspective, can be incredibly draining. It seeps into our minds, influencing our thoughts, feelings, and ultimately, our sense of happiness.

The truth is, we don’t need that. Nobody does.

If you’re serious about finding true inner happiness, it’s time to start saying “no” to negativity.

This doesn’t mean you need to cut out every single negative influence in your life. That’s not realistic or even necessarily healthy. But it does mean being more mindful about what you let into your mental and emotional space.

Mindfulness is not just about being aware of the present moment – it’s also about choosing what we allow to impact us in that moment. And when it comes to negativity, it’s okay to choose ‘no’.

2) Being too busy

In the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being ‘too busy.’ I’ve been there myself. At one point, my calendar was packed with meetings, projects, and social commitments. I was rushing from one thing to the next, always moving, always ‘busy.’

Then I stumbled upon a quote by Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned mindfulness expert and peace activist. He said, “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”

That quote changed the way I looked at my life. Being busy wasn’t making me productive or happy. It was merely taking away my ability to enjoy the present moment.

If you want true inner happiness, start saying “no” to being too busy. Make time for stillness and silence in your day. Savor your meals, enjoy your morning coffee or tea without rushing.

Happiness is not a destination—it’s experienced in the here and now. And sometimes, to experience it fully, you need to say “no” to being too busy.

3) Attachment to outcomes

In the teachings of Buddhism, there’s a concept called ‘non-attachment.’ It might sound confusing or even a bit cold at first, but it’s not about being indifferent or uncaring. It’s about understanding the transient nature of life and not clinging to outcomes, people, or things.

Here’s the raw and honest truth: Life is unpredictable. Things change. People change. Outcomes that we desire might not always come to fruition. And when we cling to these outcomes, when we attach our happiness to ‘what could be’ or ‘what should be,’ we set ourselves up for suffering.

The path to true inner happiness involves saying “no” to this kind of attachment. It means understanding that while you can work towards your goals, dream your dreams and love with all your heart, you cannot control everything.

It’s about being okay with this uncertainty and finding peace amidst it. That’s where true inner happiness lies—in embracing life as it unfolds, not as we think it should be.

4) Living on autopilot

We all do it. We wake up, go through our daily routines, and before we know it, the day is over. It’s so easy to live life on autopilot, going through the motions without truly engaging with our experiences.

But here’s the raw truth: When we live on autopilot, we’re simply existing, not truly living. We miss out on the richness of life—the sounds, smells, tastes, and textures that make up each moment.

Mindfulness is all about breaking free from this autopilot mode. It’s about paying active attention to the present moment without judgment.

So if you’re seeking true inner happiness, start saying “no” to living on autopilot. Make an effort to consciously engage with your experiences.

Taste your food as if it were your first time eating. Listen to your favorite song as if you’ve never heard it before. Consciously note the feeling of a warm shower or a cool breeze.

Every moment is unique and will never come again. By saying “no” to autopilot and “yes” to mindful living, you’ll uncover a depth of joy and happiness that’s always been there—it just took a little mindfulness to find it.

5) Constant self-criticism

We all have an inner critic. That voice in our heads that tells us we’re not good enough, smart enough, or just not ‘enough’ in general. I’ve grappled with this myself, often falling into the trap of self-criticism and doubt.

But one vital lesson I share in my book, Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego, is that this constant self-criticism doesn’t lead to growth or happiness. It only keeps us stuck in a cycle of self-doubt and frustration.

To cultivate true inner happiness, it’s essential to start saying “no” to this constant self-criticism. Instead, embrace self-compassion. Acknowledge your flaws and mistakes, but also recognize your strengths and achievements.

You are a work in progress, and that’s okay. Every step you take, no matter how small, is a step towards growth. And that’s something to be proud of.

6) The illusion of permanence

In Buddhism, one of the key teachings is the understanding of impermanence. Everything in life—our thoughts, feelings, experiences, even our very selves—are transient.

And yet, we often live as if things are permanent. We hold onto our pleasures, hoping they’ll last forever. We dread our pains, fearing they won’t pass. We fixate on our self-image, clinging to a notion of ‘me’ that’s constantly changing.

This clinging to permanence is a source of suffering.

So here’s the raw truth: If you seek true inner happiness, start saying “no” to the illusion of permanence.

Embrace the reality of change. Understand that pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame—all these are part of life’s ebb and flow.

To be truly happy is to find peace in this impermanence. To know that every moment is precious precisely because it will never come again.

In mindfulness practice, this means fully experiencing each moment as it is—without clinging to it or pushing it away. By doing this, you open yourself to a deeper kind of happiness—one that’s not dependent on things staying the same.

7) The need for control

Let’s be raw and honest here: We often live under the illusion that we can control everything in our lives. We plan, strategize, and worry, hoping to steer life in the direction we want.

But the truth is, life is unpredictable. It’s full of surprises, some pleasant and some not so much. And the more we try to control it, the more we set ourselves up for stress and disappointment.

A quote that resonates with this idea comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn, a renowned mindfulness teacher. He said, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

If you’re seeking true inner happiness, start saying “no” to this need for control. Instead, learn to ‘surf.’ Embrace the unpredictability of life. Learn to adapt and flow with it rather than fighting against it.

Happiness isn’t about having life go exactly as you planned. It’s about finding peace and joy in the journey, regardless of where it takes you.

8) Avoidance of discomfort

Here’s something that might seem counterintuitive: True inner happiness doesn’t come from avoiding discomfort.

In fact, mindfulness teaches us to do quite the opposite. It encourages us to lean into discomfort, to observe it without judgment, and to accept it as a part of our human experience.

We often instinctively shy away from things that make us uncomfortable. We escape into distractions, we numb ourselves, we do everything in our power to avoid feeling ‘bad.’

But here’s the truth: Discomfort is a natural part of life. It’s not something to be feared or avoided but rather, acknowledged and faced head-on.

So if you’re seeking true inner happiness, start saying “no” to the avoidance of discomfort. Instead, practice mindfulness. When discomfort arises, don’t run from it. Observe it. Accept it. Learn from it.

Every experience—pleasant or unpleasant—brings with it a lesson and a chance for growth. And often, it’s through facing our discomfort that we find our greatest strength and happiness.

Conclusion

In the pursuit of true inner happiness, remember that it’s often about saying “no” to the things that are holding us back.

From negativity to self-criticism, autopilot living to the illusion of permanence, these are barriers we need to acknowledge and address.

But remember, this is a journey, not a destination. Each step you take brings you closer to that inner peace and happiness you’re seeking. And along the way, you’re growing, evolving, and learning more about yourself.

If you want to delve deeper into this journey, I invite you to check out my book Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego. It’s packed with insights and practical tips to help you navigate life with more mindfulness and joy.

True inner happiness isn’t about being ‘happy’ all the time. It’s about accepting all aspects of your human experience—the good, the bad, and everything in between—with grace, compassion, and a touch of humor. Here’s to your journey!

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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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