15 Habits That Are Hurting Your Happiness

“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!…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: December 28, 2023

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“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 you may be doing that take away your happiness in life – that you may not realize! Here are habits that can prevent you from a happy life.

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.

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.

Related: How I Manage My Finances So I Can Save Time and Worry Less

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.”

Related: How To Stay Focused, Get Stuff Done, And Be Successful

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.”

Related: How To Better Yourself – 23 Challenges That Will Change Your Life

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.

Related: Stop Comparing Yourself To Others And Live Your Own Life

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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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Matt @ Optimize Your Life

    I have done all of these at various points of my life…

    I think comparing yourself to others and not having enough downtime are far too common (and hard to avoid!) in the modern world. The surprising one for me had been maintaining a poor diet. I didn’t realize that this was linked to mood and happiness until I started eating a little healthier and feeling a little happier.

    Thanks for the tips!

    1. The comparison trap is so bad for me, too – definitely hard one to kick!

    2. Ricky | Money Hero

      Matt, I agree. I think we’re all guilty of most, if not all, of these things at some point in our lives. Just like Natali said, the comparison trap is a really tough one. But improving on these definitely improves quality of life.

      1. What you said! 🙂

    3. Oh yes! I was going down the list and thinking of all the times that I screwed us one way or another as example. I’m still guilty of #10 and uh…I’m working on it not that it’s working very well. I’m just a yes person until I gain more confidence.

      Overall this is a terrific list and extremely well thought out. Nice job Natalie!

      1. Thank you! We’re all a work in progress, right?!

  2. Mr. and Mrs. Money Sloths

    Great post, will definitely look to incorporate more of these habits in our daily lives.

  3. Very good list. I haven’t considered “isolating oneself” before, but it is very true! I transitioned to working in a remote office for my employer (I love the flexibility as a full-time working mom!) but I have realized the need to be diligent about my nights out. I am home alone all day long, so if I don’t get out of the house at least a few times a week, it can get pretty depressing.

    1. Yes, community is so important!

  4. Great post I am agreewith everything…I’m sure that have positive attitude and positive thinking, p.lus smile and be kindle with others bring you back positivityand good things, little changes big results:D

    1. Yes, I agree! 🙂

  5. Such a good point! Yet, sometimes hard to do!

  6. Literally, all 15 of these will add stress to your life.

    Sometimes it’s tough when your going through something to “view the bright side of things” but it’s so worth it.

  7. Like Matt, I’ve done all of these at one time or another. I still work on #1 and #13.

    I’d probably differentiate between rest and sleep in #14. So many studies show how lack of sleep negatively affects the brain, appetite, heart, etc. Adequate sleep can make many other problems vanish — poof!

    Great post, Natalie!

    1. Whenever I’m in a funk, I try to take a nap and usually feel better after it. Definitely good advice on the sleep tip.

  8. Jessica

    I *really* hate my job and am looking to make a change. But this past month has been full of rejections, and I’ve definitely been isolating myself. No surprise, it’s led me to feel even worse. Thank you for the reminder how so many things impact our happiness and wellbeing (and how we can be our worst enemies at times)!

    1. I am sending you lots of good luck vibes!!! 🙂

  9. Oh man I’m really bad at doing #9. I always feel like people will feel sorry for me and help me if I do it but ultimately no one really does.

    I can say budgeting and using You Need A Budget(YNAB) 5 years ago really helped me but it can only do so much when you are in low paying jobs but I do feel better feeling I have somewhat control of my money.

    I’m also bad at staying at jobs I hate because I HATE change and I always think a new job is going to be worse. So it’s easier to stay where I’m at but in the end the company doesn’t need you as much as you think.MEH.

    1. I can totally relate to feeling the fear of a new job and thinking it will be worse. Sometimes, things are worse in my head!

      1. yes I’m also really good at building awful scenarios up in my head.

  10. Sabrina

    Thank you! I also am a burned out attorney. Shifting careers and struggling with “what others will think”. This article helped me feel not so stuck.

    1. I’m SO glad to hear it – I can totally relate to you!

  11. I’ve been getting my life this year, and have been working on doing things that make me happy. One of my biggest struggles has been not getting enough exercise. My business is my life, so I find it difficult to squeeze in the things that are important, like exercise. On a whim, I decided to get myself a Fitbit, and was surprised at how it actually motivated me to get moving! My stress levels are down, and I’m feeling great.

    1. It’s amazing to me how much exercise can effect your mood. It does for me a ton!

  12. These are so true! I think another one I would add would be to not take things personally. My boyfriend remarked the other day that I never take anything personally, and that is true! If someone says something rude or that is meant to be offensive, it is their problem, not mine. I think when people behave like that they are unhappy inside, and I feel sadness for them as a person. I also agree that diet and exercise are SUPER important. Whenever I start feeling low energy, I make myself a green drink and go for a run 🙂

    1. That is an AMAZING tip!! I could take some of that advice – it’s really hard for me to do. Props to you!!

      1. oh man that is so true and it’s SO HARD to do! I take EVERYTHING so personally and it really effects me big time. If someone does something to bother me i talk about it for like 2-3 days!

        1. Me too!! Definitely something I’m working on – I hate that I’m like that!

  13. Hi Natalie,

    I think as an entrepreneur, it’s so easy to develop any of these bad habits. I know I am guilty of not giving myself enough downtime. It seems like there is always something that needs to be done.

    I am the type of person who wants to do things today. I even went and purchased a MacBook Pro so I could work while I was sitting in front of the television.

    I know that I should break away from the computer at some point. The great news is that I do get at least an hour of exercise on a daily basis.

    Like Tiffany, I purchased a Fitbit Surge, I love it. The great thing is that it keeps me motivated to continue working out.

    Thanks for sharing these 15 habits with us, have a great day 🙂


    1. YES times 1 million! I think being an entrepreneur lends itself to doing this so much. You’re spot on!

  14. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    All fantastic points. 🙂 I’m really trying to combat negative thinking. It’s so easy to get in a rut with your daily routine and think about how nothing is enough. Why spread the negativity?

  15. Alfredo

    Absolutely right!… and I could mention another 15…

    1. Hahaha touché!

  16. Lyn McNamee

    You are spot on with this post Natalie, and thanks for sharing it Michelle. Downtime/rest is so important. As a teacher I used to work day and night and every weekend and still the job was never finished. Now I make sure I have a life away from my job and surprise surprise the important things still get done and I am happier for the break.

    1. One thing I know for sure is that the job is never done! That’s why you have to rest. Like you said, resting is a must!

  17. Great list and so true! I’ve definitely been guilty of all of these at some point, they really have a negative impact. When you take away negativity and enter positivity, amazing things happen!

    1. You definitely attract amazing things when you do this!!

  18. Ryan

    great post. so true, my mother always told me, you are responsible for your own happiness. We have to constantly tend to if we want to be happy. it won’t just happen on its own.

    1. Yes, exactly!

  19. Kathy

    Good article, very interesting, but did you have to use a bad word at the end?

    1. I can totally understand swearing isn’t for everyone! I’m more of a Gary Vee type and swear a lot! That’s why I used an * 🙂

  20. Hi Natalie,

    That was a great post. Your number one point is very vital. Saying negative things about people even if that was what they did has a way of hurting one back. How about people that interpret things based on their past experiences? That’s bad of them.

    I learnt a lot reading this. Thank you for this.


    1. I agree, Emenike!

  21. Grant @ Life Prep Couple

    Fantastic list Natalie. I can see why you are a successful blogger. I have never thought about not listening or being negative as affecting my happiness but it makes sense. Very easy to get caught by about everything on your list at some point in your life.

    The goes along with down time but I would emphasize taking the time to experience new things will increase your happiness and brain function.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Grant! 🙂

  22. These are amazing tips!! I had to learn to leave toxic people behind as I got older! I think it is hard not to compare yourself to others with the social media of the times, but it does improve happiness to be content with yourself. Thank you for the fabulous advice.

    1. It’s so hard not to compare, but it’s something I’m always working on!

  23. Bridgette

    Wonderful advice. Time is one of most precious commodities. If not the most precious. We squander it like we have an unlimited amount. So all these tips are really good ways to start taking back your power, living better and working towards freedom of many different avenues.

    1. We sure do. I agree!

  24. Ashley

    Good list!

  25. MakinCents

    Thanks for the excellent list.
    Not sure where to start definitely a few points I can work on!
    After all what is more important that happiness.


  26. 13 to a certain degree, but 4 and 5 so much.

    Luckily I’ve recently started exercising and am on a mission to change my diet as well…. The diet is not going well at the moment, but I’m taking the slow and steady approach. But on the weeks when I do eat better, I can honestly say I feel happier.

    If I can just start managing my money and eating better, I should increase my happiness a lot.

    1. Slow and steady can lead to huge results over time. Progress forward is better than none at all. I’m glad you’re happier from it!

  27. I think the last one is the worst one. Other people have whatever influence you let them have over you. I’m working on ‘them’ having no influence on me 😉 And I always notice it when I’m doing the right things with drinking water, exercising, spending less time on my cell phone, etc. It’s a work in progress, but I feel that over the years, I’ve made massive improvements. Including getting out of a toxic relationship, which was a lifechanging experience 🙂

    1. That is such a good thing to be working on! I’m right there with you. 🙂

  28. Hahah you’re right about that – otherwise, we all would change as soon as we recognized them. I agree, though, that it’s the first step. And thank you!

  29. These things are so true. I can relate to “saying yes when you really want to say no.” Good for you for giving up the things that made you so unhappy.

    1. Thanks, Nicole! 🙂

  30. Wow!!! This is great advice and an interesting perspective on happiness.

  31. Great article, Natalie!

    I am definitely guilty of many of these and am looking forward to trying your suggestions! 🙂

    1. Aren’t we all! 😉

  32. Kvnqprezo

    Yeah, I agree with the 15 points, I discover people always compare their self with someone else, forgetting they’re different and have different life aspirations.

    However, learning to stop comparing your self with someone will increase your chances of being happy.

    Thanks for the informative article!

    1. Natalie

      Excellent point. It’s funny how we naturally assume people are just like us. Really, we’re all so different.

  33. Hey Michelle,
    I have to agree with you on the negative comments part. Very few people know when they say bad things about others it hurts themselves because it alters their way of thinking. It can impair their current train of thought from feeling hopeful about their entrepreneurial ambitions to not hearing it sings, off the ground businesswise. This is why I strive to be a positive person because though I have issues I’m currently dealing with, I strive to remain in a positive state of mind most of the time and refrain from as much negativity as possible. I’m glad you brought up this topic about how a person’s current train of thought “positive or negative” affects their future.

    One thing I discovered is that like you said, when we exercise, change our mindset, do more cardio, and surround ourselves with positive people, things change in our lives for the better.

  34. Kristin Zeier

    This is exactly what I needed to read today. I’ve been feeling fairly unhappy very recently and I can definitely identify with multiple things on this list. Thanks for writing this! 🙂

  35. I love that listening is Number 2 – so important! I am still working on it, and probably always will be… !

  36. Tara

    Wow! #’s 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 14 really hit home with me! In particular, #6 as I really want to get out of my current full-time work situation and I just heard of 2 colleagues in a different department who are leaving for new jobs. This solidifies there is no one or anything stopping me but myself.
    Thank you for sharing this!

  37. Chris Darden

    I think the one about your job can really get you down. I have also found that as my disdain for my current job increases that I fall short on some of your other points like exercise and negative talk. Life balance is critical and if you work long hours at a job you hate it can really put a drain on you. Enjoyed this post.

  38. As the saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail”. It took me some time to start being more intentional in how I spend my days (and my money). Great post, Natalie! Thanks for sharing it, Michelle!

  39. Freedom

    Can I add a big one?


  40. Thanks for always sharing your insights, being selfless, and spreading kindness. I personally can’t thank you enough for all of the amazing content you share. You change lives! WE APPRECIATE YOU. Stay safe!