“Happiness is a habit – cultivate it.” – Elbert Hubbard
Today, I have a great article written about how to reach happiness in life by my good friend Natalie Bacon from NatalieBacon.com. Enjoy!
There are habits that you may be doing that negatively affect your happiness in life – and you may not even realize you’re doing them!
Here’s a list of 15 habits that can sneak up on you and steal your happiness in life.
1. Making negative judgments about someone
When you make a negative judgment about someone, you hurt yourself without even realizing it. The negative comment about the other person may or may not be true, but the negative energy you experience because of your negative thinking is felt all over.
Not only is it bad for you internally, but when you say negative comments out loud, people associate them to you, not to the person you’re talking about.
So, hold your tongue despite what comes to your mind first. The more you say that’s positive, the more you’ll think positively, and the happier you’ll be.
2. Listening poorly
If you’re a poor listener, you are unaware of other people’s thoughts and feelings. Whether it’s intentional or not, you aren’t hearing what other people are trying to say to you. It may be that you have so much going on inside your own mind or it may be something completely different. But if you’re not listening to people, you’re not focused on them and this will cause a gap in your relationship. You won’t be as connected and in tune with other people, and therefore, your happiness will suffer.
As a fix, try counting to two before you respond to anyone. This will make sure you’re giving people time to express themselves and you’re showing respect by not interrupting. Another fix is to read the book Just Listen by Mark Goulston. It’s great for teaching you how to become a better listener and have more meaningful relationships because of it.
3. Not getting enough exercise
If you’re not getting enough exercise, your happiness will be negatively affected.
Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety, and at the same time increase your energy and happiness.
The biggest challenge I have is the time commitment. I know exercising is good for me, but I have competing interests for my time. So, instead, I focus on getting thirty minutes of some activity in at least four days a week. Starting small works because it’s not so extreme and is therefore, easier. It’s no shocker I’m happier when I work out consistently.
4. Maintaining a poor diet
You may be surprised to know that your diet can affect your mood. If you are loading up on sugar, caffeine, and/or alcohol and not getting enough protein or eating enough veggies, your mood can decline quickly. You can become more irritable and find it harder to focus.
Instead of abstaining completely, give yourself a cheat day or time where you allow yourself these things without going overboard. If you abstain altogether and it’s new to you, you may end up binging and feeling worse off. Baby steps can be your best friend!
5. Mismanaging your money
Mismanaging your money is a recipe for chaos. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck stress creeps in and it’s nearly impossible to be happy. It’s not about being rich or having enormous wealth – it is about managing what you have so you have what I call “financial margin” (more money at the end of the month than the other way around).
I’m a spender, so this is hard for me. That’s why I don’t have a credit card at all (and never have). I know I’m giving up points and all of the freebies, but it’s worth it because the spender in me would buy new shoes, makeup, and everything else I find so necessary to maintain my ultra-feminine self (no judgment please ☺).
This is also why I budget. It's the tool I use to keep myself in check and on track (here's a look at the budget templates I use).
The point is that it’s important to figure out what works best for you when it comes to managing your money so you can be happy, regardless of your income.
6. Staying in a job you hate
If you stay in a job you hate, you will be unhappy. Life is too short and you spend too much time at work to do something you hate. You can’t feel fulfilled if you hate your job.
I hated practicing law so much that I quit for a 50% pay cut to become a financial planner and blogger. It wasn’t easy and I am at the “bottom of the ladder” but it’s the right ladder. I’m in alignment with my work, so I’m happy. I was miserable as an attorney.
If you hate your job, don’t waste any more time. Do something about it. Even if it’s one small step, like researching other careers, shadowing someone, or applying for a new job. Take action. Time is too precious and life is too short to spend it doing something you hate.
7. Ignoring your own personal development
If you have unresolved issues from your past (whether that’s from childhood or a previous relationship), work on your own personal development to overcome those issues. There’s no shame in getting help. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who is suffering from anxiety or depression who isn’t seeking help and is also at the same time very happy. Acknowledging that there is room for you to grow is maturity – not weakness.
Personal development doesn’t have to be extreme either. I didn’t realize I needed so much help until I started reading personal development books. By help, I just mean personal development as a practice (I wasn’t suffering from anything). My eyes were opened to a whole new world that talked about meaning, purpose, life, and everything in between.
I've fallen in love with personal development so much so that I created a Goal Setting Action plan that I use to plan my goals out so I know I'm living a life I love with fewer regrets. You can download my Goal Setting Action Plan here.
Like Jim Rohn said, “your level of success will seldom exceed your level of self-development.”
8. Failing to plan your life
If you spend more time planning your vacations than you do planning your life, you’re doing something wrong. You will wander and react to what life throws at you instead of leading yourself toward your own happiness in life.
Setting goals and thinking about where you want your life to go based on your personal values is one of the best ways you can set yourself up for a purposeful, happy life. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave room for spontaneity or change course as you go, but it does mean you’re thinking about your future and long-term goals.
9. Acting like a victim or being too reactionary
Do you ever think “bad things always happen to me”? Or are you constantly reacting to things?
Feeling like the world is against you and like you don’t have choices is a victim mentality that leaves you in a reactive mode instead of an intentional one. Your happiness suffers because you think things happen to you and you don’t have a choice.
This is a mindset shift. If you can find a way to feel in control of your life, you can get out of the victim mentality and live a joyful, fulfilling life.
Related: 45+ Ways To Live An Amazing Life
10. Saying “yes” to things when you want to say “no”
If you say “yes” to do things when you really want to say “no”, you are going to suffer. Life is busy and people are constantly asking you to do things. But you can’t do everything. You only have so much time. If you don’t prioritize doing what you want, then you’ll end up doing what everyone else wants and have no time left for the things that matter to you.
I see this a lot, personally. I find it hard to say “no”, and when I do, I feel guilty. I’m currently practicing changing this by saying “no” in spite of feeling the guilty. Over time, the habit has made it easier for me, and I’m happier because I’m doing things I care more about.
Like Warren Buffet said, “[t]he difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”
11. Isolating yourself
If isolate yourself, you are robbing yourself of some level of happiness. Socializing is good for your happiness. As humans, we’re better and happier when we’re around other people. Of course, in moderation (you need alone time, too), but isolation is the extreme opposite of always socializing. If you’re isolating yourself, you can’t be happy.
I find myself doing this when I have so much going on in my career and with my blog. I forget that it’s important to focus on relationships, too. To combat this, I made it a goal to work on specific relationships (romantic and friendships) so I have socialization. Now, this obviously isn’t extreme (and everyone who knows me knows I’m very outgoing and social), but the point is that it’s important to socialize and make it a priority. Your happiness depends on it!
12. Staying in toxic relationships
If you are in an up-and-down relationship with anyone – a significant other, sibling, parent, friend, or anyone else – do something about it now. Toxic relationships suck the life out of you slowly, over time. Before you know it, years of your life are wasted on someone you always knew wouldn’t be a positive part of your future. You can’t possibly be happy if you’re intertwined with someone who is toxic for you – it’s impossible.
Yes, it’s painful. But it’s not impossible. You can change your life by detaching from toxic people, and you’ll be better off for it.
13. Comparing yourself to others
With social media today, it’s so hard not to fall into the “comparison trap”, where you compare yourself to someone else.
It’s also a perfect way to steal any happiness you were feeling in that moment. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle or end.
Compare your today with your yesterday – no one else’s.
14. Not giving yourself enough down time
If you’re not giving yourself enough downtime you can become awfully cranky, irritable, and well… unhappy. It’s important to work hard, achieve your goals, and maintain a schedule, but it’s also important to rest so you can have energy and are able to focus when you need to. If you don’t rest enough you won’t be able to be happy.
I find myself guilty of this all the time. Because I work full time, run a profitable blog, and am in a relationship, I almost never make time to rest. I don’t want to give up any of these things for obvious reasons (and not so obvious reasons, like paying off my student loan debt), so I struggle with prioritizing rest. But I always regret when I don’t make time for it. I’m my best self after I relax and rest. I feel so much happier and more centered.
Even if you’re a type-A, driven, highly motivated achiever, make time to rest. You’ll be happier in the long run.
15. Living life according to someone else’s rules
If you live life according to what other people want for you instead of what you want for yourself, you’ll be unhappy. Making choices someone else (think: parents) believes in always leaves you unfulfilled because it’s not what you want for yourself.
I will never forget the feeling of hating being an attorney and thinking I had done everything everyone in society told me to do all for nothing. I was in massive student loan debt and hated my job. I was unhappy and stressed out. I had a “rock bottom” moment, and from that moment on I decided I was going to give zero f*cks about what anyone wanted me to do because that clearly didn’t make me happy. I decided I was going to do exactly what I wanted to do, according to what I wanted for myself. It was the most empowered I’ve ever felt.
It takes courage, but it’s the best thing you can do for yourself. Live life according to your rules, your values, and your truth. This, is the ultimate path to happiness in life.
Do any of these habits negatively affect you? Are there additional habits that you find make you unhappy?
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