Truly happy people share three things in common:
- They have a purpose.
- They appreciate life.
- They work hard.
They don’t get there by accident, however.
They do so by ensuring that even in their free time they are avoiding toxic behaviors and habits.
Indeed, being happy means bypassing all sorts of unhealthy habits and instincts. None of us are ever going to be perfect, and sadness is part of life.
But a deep feeling of fulfillment and leading a life worth living comes when you cut away the following unhealthy actions.
Here’s what to avoid in your spare time if you want to be happy:
1) Isolating yourself from the world
Solitude can be wonderful.
Self-isolation, by contrast, is never a good thing. This process of walling yourself off from the outside world leads to misery and disconnection.
The truly happy individual never self-isolates.
They may be introverted and enjoy time by themselves, but they aren’t anti-social.
If you enjoy spending time alone that’s fine, but try your best to remain interested and open to connection with others.
Be present, real and involved as much as possible.
2) Debauch themselves
Let’s be honest: debauchery can be fun. If it wasn’t, people wouldn’t do it.
But the hangover can be really nasty, and it doesn’t lead to long-lasting satisfaction. The risks are also considerable.
Over-drinking, substance use, casual hookups, reckless adventures of all kinds are not something happy people do much of.
They exercise self-control and have fun in moderation.
They don’t have that youthful craving for novelty or the need to constantly hit themselves with dopamine. They’ve learned to smell and enjoy the smell of pines on a quiet forest hike.
3) Oversleeping and procrastinating
If you have a tendency to oversleep or procrastinate, I’m not judging.
I have exactly the same propensity!
But in observing the happiest people I know, I’ve noticed that they tend to be early risers and non-procrastinators.
They get up early and they get stuff done.
I’m currently visiting a friend who is an 82-year-old widow whose physical fitness, early rising and productivity puts me to shame – and I’m only 39!
She’s one of the genuinely happiest people I’ve ever met (for real!)
4) Being overly judgmental and critical
When you have spare time, use it for something. Even if it’s just relaxing or catching up on some shows or films you missed, try to chill.
Happy people don’t spend their time thinking of what’s wrong with others or judging them.
I’m not saying that you don’t notice what’s going on with others or don’t care. But it just isn’t your focus.
As a happy person, you focus on your own life, your own priorities and how you can be useful and be of service around you.
The idea of just thinking about the mistakes others are making doesn’t enter your mind: you’re too busy winning and doing useful things to focus on those who are losing or doing useless things.
5) Focusing on bad news and disaster
Bad news is a fact of life, and happy people are well aware of it. They don’t bury their heads in the sand.
But if you want to be fulfilled, you fall out of love with the drama. You follow the news and know what’s going on, but you are also in touch with the good going on around you.
In fact, you’re helping make that good happen and you care about your local community and the people in your life.
If somebody needs a helping hand, you’re there. Misfortune around the world does matter to you, too. But you’re never one being entertained by the drama just for the sake of it.
6) Splurging money for no reason
Spending all sorts of money on useless things is a surefire path to frustration and penury.
If you want to be happy, then you avoid splurging for no reason.
There might be the odd time you go to a casino or have a wild night out, but you’re not one to buy a car on a whim or redesign your entire home on a whim and empty your bank account.
Happy people ensure they have a bit of a financial cushion, instead of just relying on their momentary impulses.
They watch their spending and make sure it doesn’t get out of hand, that way they have enough in any emergency or unforeseen situation.
7) Being tight-fisted and severe
On the flip side, truly happy people are not miserly or overly penny-pinching.
If you want to feel truly satisfied, you know that sometimes it’s necessary to go out for a fine meal or buy yourself a really great pair of pants.
Life isn’t all about saving money, and after all we (debatably) only live once.
Happiness in many ways is about balance.
You don’t go out and throw your money around on useless things, but at the same time you do allow for purchases and special occasions, and you aren’t overly obsessed about watching every penny.
You recognize the importance of money and its power, but you never make it your idol.
8) Listening to your inner critic
When you’re alone before sleep or sitting in traffic, what happens when your inner critic pipes up?
You don’t necessarily have control:
Many of us have an inner critic who speaks out when we least expect it.
“You’re so fat.”
“I can’t believe your boyfriend dumped you. He must have realized you’re not attractive just like other guys did.”
But if you’re a happy person you know that this inner critic isn’t reality and that the personalized insults that are coming your way are just your fears and not any kind of realistic assessment.
9) Spending time with losers
It’s not nice to call anyone a loser, but it’s accurate.
To be fair, even the biggest loser can become a winner, and just because you’re currently losing doesn’t make you a loser.
Failing is an occurrence not an identity. But for some people their failures become their identity and they get bitter and resigned.
They give up and adopt a victim mindset that they spread all around them.
Happy people don’t spend time with these people. If it’s their family or friends they don’t engage that much beyond a positive word and some encouragement.
They know that in many cases a person needs to find their own way out of a negative hole rather than being pulled out of it by another person.
It’s a long and grinding personal journey in many cases.
10) Complaining and being negative
Happy people limit how much they complain.
When you give voice to unhappiness and frustration it tends to have an amplification effect.
You feel even more focused on it and begin noticing it everywhere. The problem becomes even larger in your mind and balloons into monstrous proportions.
It’s not a matter of ignoring problems:
Happy people see a problem, identify it and work to fix it if possible. That’s life.
But complaining about what can’t be changed or about being a victim isn’t the style of a happy person, because he or she knows this will just intensify a feeling of helplessness or bitterness.
This in turn just feeds into a cycle instead of helping create escape velocity to get out of a cycle.
11) Living in the past or the future
Happy people don’t live in the past or the future.
When they have free time they are either resting or doing something that they enjoy or which furthers their purpose in life.
They’re connecting with others and getting involved, never just sitting around.
They don’t dwell in past regrets or in the sweet pangs of past nostalgia…
They don’t pine for friends they used to have and curse this cruel world, they go out and meet new ones…
They don’t think of future daydreams and how good things will one day be when they finally hit $1 million in the bank or meet the girl of their dreams, they get living today…
Similarly, they don’t think of the dread of being diagnosed with a serious illness next year and what they would do, they work to live more healthily now and hopefully avert such a fate!
The present is where our power lies! Happy people know that.
Don’t worry, be happy
What does it mean to be happy?
I used to think it meant feeling pleasant emotions like excitement, joy and good humor, but now I see it a little differently.
Yes, those can certainly be part of being happy.
But to me, being happy on a deeper level is a little different. It means having a purpose that connects you to other people and knowing that you are living up to (at least some of) your potential.
Being happy means that you are busy, in movement and your rests are well-deserved!
Being happy means being truly alive.