We are all constantly in pursuit of happiness. Every day we make choices in life that affect how we feel and think about ourselves. We usually believe we are making good decisions that will bring us closer to a state of well-being. We naturally seek to avoid fear and create a comfortable life.
The only problem is that sometimes the choices we make actually increase our anxiety and despair. We fall into bad habits that hurt us and destroy our chances of finding lasting contentment.
You can stop the negative cycle and begin taking back your happiness by quashing these 10 horrible habits.
1. Constantly comparing yourself with others.
The temptation to compare ourselves to others is almost overwhelming. However, constantly comparing ourselves to others will result in dissatisfaction with our own lives.
It’s easy to look at someone else and think that they have the perfect career, the happiest relationships, make more money or seem more attractive. But comparisons are never fair, because we are all unique human beings, with our own talents, fears, passions and traits. We have vastly different life experiences, desires and goals.
When comparing yourself with others, try to balance your perception. Remind yourselt that we are all human. No one is perfect. We are all just striving to put our best face forward.
2. Not appreciating what you have.
No matter what your circumstances in life, you have so much to be grateful for. Every day you draw breath is an opportunity to work toward your goals, serve others and find all the little joys in life. When we are ungrateful we dismiss the importance and value of all that we have.
Gratitude changes your life. Being thankful shifts your focus away from what you don’t have toward how full and wonderful your life truly is. No matter how successful you are, unless you take time to count your blessings you will never feel you have enough. Gratitude reduces stess, brings peace of mind and makes you more resilient and caring.
3. Letting fear or hate control you.
Our brains are hardwired to warn us of real danger and keep us safe, but fear and anxiety can paralyze us. Fear of failure is a barrier to pursuing our dreams. Fear of putting ourselves "out there" influences the choices we're willing to make in life.
The same goes for hate. Allowing ourselves to be consumed by anger just mires us in cynicism and animosity. Difficult experiences can fill you with pain, but making decisions based on hate steals your ability to focus on what really matters to you. Hate bleeds you of your happiness.
Stop holding on to your fear and your hate. A meditation practice and journaling help you let go of those emotions. Take time to reflect on your actions and how you treat others. Don’t let hostility creep into your life.
4. Focusing on the past or the future.
If your consciousness is dominated by the past or focused on the future, you’re likely to miss experiences and opportunities right in front of you. You must live in the present to be engaged with where you are and who you're with. Otherwise, without even realizing it, you are letting life pass you.
Dwelling on the past usually means unresolved issues are weighing you down. Focusing entirely on the future usually means that you have anxiety about what is to come and your ability to handle it. Research shows that those who stay focused on the present are happier and feel more connected to others. Practice mindfulness by focusing your consciousness on the present moment.
5. Trying to control what you can't.
It is frustrating to spend a great deal of time and effort making plans, only to discover life has taken you on an entirely different path. “This isn’t how things are supposed to go,” you tell yourself. It seems so unfair, because you had it all worked out.
Control freaks take note: the best thing you can do for yourself is realize you aren’t always in the driver’s seat. You can spend all your time and energy trying to come up with the perfect way to plan and predict the world around you, but things aren’t always going to go your way. You have to learn to let go.
Too often our desire to control everything is rooted in anxiety and fear -- we believe the worst will happen if we aren’t behind the wheel. At a certain point you are just fighting the universe and making yourself extremely unhappy. Instead of trying to control every detail, allow life to unfold naturally. Feel the freedom that comes from loosening your grip on what you have no control over.
6. Getting caught in the blame game.
Constantly blaming people for your problems or circumstances is a destructive habit that will hurt you and those around you. When we blame others, we relinquish accountability for our own feelings and actions. We shift responsibility to someone else because we don’t want it to be our fault. It’s a way of explaining to ourselves why something has gone wrong that we think will make us feel better.
We think by making someone else responsible, regret and remorse will be lifted from our shoulders. In reality, we are always liable for our own actions and good communication isn’t a one-way street. No one else can make us do something, and no one else can take responsibility for it.
7. Fixating on your possessions.
That awesome new car you are coveting will never love you back. That great new couch or expensive watch won’t bring you a sense of belonging or fulfillment. It will add to stress and anxiety if your budget is tight or you are already struggling to pay off credit cards.
When you concentrate your life around money and material things, you lose sight of what truly makes you happy. People. Experiences. Pursuing your dreams and desires. Love and joy. Money helps us take care of ourselves and others, but when we focus entirely on wealth or amassing riches, we forget the importance of what’s in our heart and soul, the things that bring us comfort and cheer. Seek a balance in life, and recognize that wealth cannot buy happiness. That is something that must come from within.
8. Surrounding yourself with toxic people.
Bad relationships with toxic people steal your happiness. Negative people suck the joy from life. If you’re not careful, their pessimistic mentality will seep into your mindset. The sad reality is, toxic people don’t care about you and never will, no matter how hard you try to impress them.
You need to be wary of those who constantly negate your opinions, who only turn up when they need something or who don’t respect your boundaries or wishes. These are the types of people who don’t know how to have a healthy relationship with others.
Don’t let bad relationships continue to hurt you or bring you down. Be assertive and confident in who you are. You deserve to be around people who treat you with respect and kindness.
9. Letting procrastination wither your ambition.
We all, from time to time, put off the task we dread or invent excuses to explain why we haven’t done something we ageed to do. But habitual procrastination does real damage to your long-term happiness. By procrastinating, you are losing precious time and energy that you could be using to pursue your goals and dreams.
When you look back, will you feel frustrated and annoyed at how you spent your time? Was there value and purpose to your days? Or did you let important opportunities slip through your fingers? Don’t wait until it’s too late. Begin today.
10. Being your own worst critic.
We believe we must set high expectations and be hard on ourselves when we fall short. After all, self-criticism is necessary to identify your flaws and perfect your craft. There is some truth to the importance of being self-aware of areas that you need to work on. A bloated ego will get you nowhere fast. But constantly beating yourself up or putting yourself down isn’t helpful either. Negative self-talk will only hurt you and keep you from realizing true happiness.
The key is to examine the reasons you’re so harsh on yourself. Are you truly disappointed because you know you can do better? Or do the opinions, desires and assessments of other people have undo influence on you? Are you torturing yourself because you’re afraid of letting other people down or because of what others will think of you?
Take time to connect to the real you. What do you really want? Who do you want to be? What are your passions, likes and dislikes? You must find the way to be yourself and appreciate and love who you are. Put aside the negative dialogue that runs in your head in favor of constructive criticism. Remember to be kind to yourself as well as others: that’s the road to true happiness.
Deep Patel is the author of A Paperboy's Fable: The 11 Principles of Success. The book was dubbed the #1 best business book in 2016 by Success Magazine and named the best book for entrepreneurs in 2016 by Entrepreneur Magazine.