11 mindful habits that are hard to adopt but will make you much happier

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We all aspire to be more mindful, present, and appreciative of each moment. But cultivating new habits that nurture our spiritual and mental well-being is easier said than done.

We have big plans, but rarely do our efforts stick. 

The solution?

Small, incremental changes that gradually transform.

Today, we’ll explore eleven of these habits. They require discipline to adopt but can profoundly enhance our sense of joy, calm, and purpose.

Let’s dive in. 

1) Focusing on things you can actually control

We’ve all found ourselves obsessing over things we can’t change. Failed relationships, office politics, the state of the world – it’s tempting to wallow in anxiety over forces beyond our control. 

But what does this do for this?

Nothing good. It just causes unnecessary stress and worry. 

The stoic philosopher Epictetus told us, “The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control.”

For those of us who want to be happier (who doesn’t?), we could do with taking this on board. 

Of course, making this distinction is hard. Our egos want to control everything! 

But learning to focus on our own thoughts, actions, and perceptions is liberating. It reduces stress and worries over the uncontrollable.

This was a huge one for me when I was navigating the unpredictable waters of running a business. The uncertainty of success, the fluctuating market, and the myriad of decisions to be made could easily overwhelm. 

However, by applying this principle, I learned to distinguish between what I could influence and what was beyond my grasp, which significantly alleviated the pressure and allowed me to focus on actionable strategies.

Next time you catch yourself spiraling about external factors, pause. Gently bring your attention back to the present moment. Focus on what you can control – your breathing, perspective, your next step.

This simple ritual of focusing inward keeps us grounded in the realm of our own agency. Though it won’t solve all problems, it empowers us to move forward in clarity and tranquility.

2) Avoiding comparing yourself to others

Picture this: You’re scrolling through social media, bombarded by images of picture-perfect lives. 

You’ve done it. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. 

Some comparison is normal and even healthy. But nowadays, with most of us being constantly connected, it’s far too easy to set an impossibly high benchmark subconsciously. 

We take the best of other people’s lives and expect that we can have it all. We see high school friends who seem to have an idyllic family life, colleagues landing dream jobs, and even celebrities living lifestyles we can only dream of.

When we don’t live up to these impossible standards, we feel inadequate. 

This tendency is a trap that breeds unhappiness. Shifting our focus inward takes discipline but pays off in spades. 

As clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson advises, compare yourself not to others but to who you were yesterday. This mindset recognizes the progress you’ve made, however small. It centers your growth on your values, abilities, and dreams – not the curated highlights of other people’s lives.

Initially, avoiding comparison takes mindful effort, however. 

Each time you catch yourself making unrealistic social comparisons, pause. Take a breath. Reflect on how far you’ve come and what you have accomplished.

This ritual of mindful self-comparison seems simple. But it can fundamentally reshape your self-perception. 

We start celebrating our own wins rather than chasing the mirage of someone else’s. This inward focus breeds pride, purpose, and happiness. 

3) Making time for important relationships

In our quest for happiness, it’s easy to neglect the very bonds that nourish us. 


Yes, bonds. Decades of research have revealed that meaningful relationships are the bedrock of fulfillment. Good relationships were found to be more important than a big house, career success, or a fancy car. 

Deliberately nurturing connections takes constant effort, though. With packed schedules, it’s tempting to put off catch-ups and skip family dinners.

But small, daily rituals can keep relationships alive: a thoughtful text, undivided attention at dinner, listening without distractions.

Carving out quality time also requires mindfulness. On autopilot, we dive into work and devices. Choosing to be fully present with loved ones leads to deeper ties.

The satisfaction of achievement is fleeting, but the joy of true connection endures. Make your loved ones a priority. 

4) Appreciating nature

When life feels overwhelming, there is a temptation to hunker down indoors with Netflix as company. 

But escaping into nature is a powerful yet underutilized happiness booster.

Studies show that spending time in nature – reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. The restorative effects of nature enhance mood and concentration.

But of course, making outdoor time a priority takes effort. On busy days, it’s easy to forfeit a walk or picnic. 

The solution?

Introduce small rituals that nudge you outdoors. Take calls on a stroll, eat lunch under a tree, or wake early to welcome the sunrise. 

It doesn’t take much to reap the benefits. One study suggests that just 2 hours per week is enough to see the effects; that’s less than 20 minutes per day!

Make it a habit and witness your outlook improve. The antidote to life’s stresses might just be right outside your door. 

5) Viewing setbacks as growth opportunities 

Did you know J.K. Rowling faced twelve rejections before a publisher took a chance on Harry Potter? 

Most of us would have given up after a fraction of that rejection. 

This sort of growth mindset takes discipline to adopt. When we’re faced with disappointment, it’s natural to get discouraged. 

But with mindful effort, we can pause, reflect, and ask ourselves: “What can I learn here? How can I improve?” 

Rather than undermining our self-worth, setbacks become data to refine our approach. We glean insight on what to tweak, then try again with renewed motivation. 

Yes, this ritual of mindfully transforming obstacles into opportunities is challenging. But it unlocks our potential for growth and resilience. 

Failure stops feeling personal; it’s just feedback on what to adjust next time. Adopting this mindset leads to greater creativity, purpose, and happiness.

6) Saying “no”

As best-selling author Greg Mckeown wisely tells us, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

But often, we allow just this to happen. 

It’s tempting to pursue every project, say yes to every request, and join every cause. But in our quest to have it all, we spread ourselves thin and sacrifice what matters most.

As put by The American Psychological Association, “Overpromising, overextending, overestimating and overdoing does not help you live a balanced life.”

So what should we do?

Identify your essential goals and values. Focus on them. 

Say “no” to everything else. 

Declining distractions is an act of mindfulness that protects our time and energy and gives us the balance we all so often crave. 

But this habit is far from easy. Our ego wants opportunity and validation. Yet each “no” creates space for meaningful work and relationships.

Learning when to say no requires introspection and discipline. But it allows us to wholeheartedly pursue what ignites our spirit, not what simply keeps us busy. This focus is the cornerstone of fulfillment.

7) Giving thanks

Practicing gratitude may seem a bit soft and new age, but it’s one of the most powerful happiness habits. 

As psychology professor Robert Emmons found, giving thanks boosts optimism, generosity, and even physical health.

Sounds good, right?

Sure does, but like many on this list, it’s easier said than done. When life gets stressful, it’s easy to fixate on problems rather than blessings.

Shifting this mindset requires dedicating time for gratitude daily – to form a habit of it. 

Taking a few minutes every morning or evening to write down what we appreciate plants seeds of thankfulness that blossom over time. But we need to make it consistent.

Expressing thanks to others also strengthens relationships while reinforcing gratitude. Though awkward at first, a simple “I really appreciate you” works wonders. 

Yes, developing true gratitude is challenging. But with some patience and persistence, gratitude becomes our reflex, brightening every situation.

8) Budgeting

Money worries that, as noted by Health Direct, can result in “relationship problems, physical health problems, and mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety.”

These are hardly a recipe for happiness. So what’s the solution?

Well, as unglamorous as it may be, often it’s good old budgeting. 

Yes, you might say that some people simply don’t make enough money, and you would be right. Some people don’t. 

But for many of us, we just spend too much. We buy impulsively without a plan and end up wondering where our money went and how we are going to pay those upcoming bills. 

When we track every dollar, we make informed choices aligned with our values, not impulses. 

Yes, budgeting can feel restrictive at first. But in reality, it can grant us freedom from the stress of money. 

Creating a budget requires ruthlessly honest accounting of where your money goes. This financial mindfulness illuminates waste and excess.

Money stress is often an unnecessary burden. Choose empowerment through budgeting. The peace and possibilities are well worth the effort.

9) Getting enough shut-eye

It’s tempting to cut corners on sleep to gain precious hours. But ample, quality rest is a pillar of well-being that happy people don’t overlook.

Sleep is profoundly linked to mood and mental health. Skimping on shut-eye breeds anxiety, depression, and emotional instability. But when we make sleep a priority, our outlook brightens.

Adopting disciplined sleep habits takes work, though. 

Our devices sometimes call late into the night. But mindfully powering down screens and sticking to a consistent bedtime can unlock a renewed energy for life and all it has to offer. 

Yes, maximizing sleep means sacrificing distractions and possibly ‘productivity.’ But the benefits to your mindset, focus, and relationships are invaluable.

The truth is sleep is never wasted time. It clears mental clutter, nourishes creativity, and calms the spirit. 

Make it a priority.

10) Practicing forgiveness

Forgiveness doesn’t condone hurtful behavior. Rather, it frees you from expending energy on negativity and as the experts back up, makes us happier. 

Start small – forgive a driver who cut you off, a coworker’s thoughtless comment, or a friend’s minor oversight. Feel the lightness as you release resentment.

Work up to forgiving major betrayals. This takes time, reflection, and separating the person from their actions. 

But living without this burden is profoundly freeing.

Make forgiveness a habit through daily meditation on its benefits. You sever anger’s grasp on your happiness.

Yes, pardoning those who hurt us goes against our ego’s desires. But it is the path to liberation. Forgiveness returns you to your center, where joy resides.

11) Embracing imperfection

It’s tempting to fixate on flaws – our own, our lives, the world’s. 

But the path to happiness lies in embracing imperfection. As noted by Harvard Health, self-acceptance is key to well-being. 

Start by noticing when you criticize yourself, from your looks to your performance. Then, work to replace put-downs with self-compassion.

It also helps to correct distorted thoughts that magnify imperfections. Our minds exaggerate flaws while ignoring strengths.

Yes, befriending our flaws feels countercultural. We’re pressured to present our perfect selves. But self-acceptance lightens the spirit and opens the heart.

Make peace with who you are and where you are. Progress, not perfection, paves the road to joy. 

Keep taking steps forward.

The bottom line 

Changing ingrained patterns is hard work. Progress will be gradual. But stay patient and persistent. With time, these rituals become second nature.

Don’t just go through the motions, though – fully engage with each practice and reap the benefits. 

Mal James

Mal James

Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business.

As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys.

In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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