“I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.” – Martha Washington, wife of 1st U.S. President George Washington
Happiness is something we all strive to attain. As such, we can accept the fact that: (a) life is short, and (b) unhappiness makes our lives difficult. Our habits greatly impact the quality of life that we live. Specifically, our habits directly impact our happiness, or lack thereof.
A strong difference exists between clinical depression and chronic unhappiness. Depression involves a chemical imbalance in the brain, while being unhappy is a disposition often acquired through how we choose to face our circumstances. Similar to depression, however, unhappiness can be diagnosed and treated.
Here are 12 habits that can cause you to be unhappy, all of which can be avoided:
1. Chronic Complaining
Happy people do not complain much, nor do successful people. On the other side, chronic complainers generally have something negative to say … even when those around them are happy! The bottom line: we all have different circumstances in this lifetime, but in the end, these circumstances are ours. Fair or unfair, wanted or unwanted, we must own them. Seek solutions to problems instead of complaining, which leads directly to the state of being unhappy.
2. Being critical – of self and others
How we talk to ourselves shapes our self-image, for better or worse. Self-worth is an essential component to happiness, and feeling good about ourselves is a right we all have. Realize when mistakes are made, accept them, and move on. Avoid engaging in negative self-talk. Respect the inherent differences of others and recognize their right to live happily and without undue criticism.
3. Living beyond your means
We live in a materialistic society, and are constantly bombarded with advertisements for the latest car, gadget, or credit card. These all promise an easier, more fulfilling existence. Don’t believe it for a second. While purchasing a new product may provide an emotional boost, it doesn’t last. Ever heard the term “buyer’s remorse?” It exists for a reason. Seek joy in something that doesn’t involve whipping out a piece of plastic – exercise, reading, sightseeing, etc. Seek satisfaction without an accompanying debt.
4. Negative addictions
Most things are good in moderation – food, a drink or two, entertainment. Only when these things take center stage in our lives do they become a problem. Unfortunately, many good people have met their end through addictive habits, especially through dependence on alcohol and drugs. Prevent and remedy these by finding and living your passions to the greatest extent possible (see #8).
5. Regretting the past
Regret is not only useless, but it can also be extremely harmful. Research continues to show that repetitive, negative thoughts about decisions made in the past often precedes chronic stress and depression. According to Psychology Today, there are four ways to cope with regret: (1) learn from mistakes but don’t dwell on them; (2) if nothing can be changed about the situation, let it go; (3) make sure you’re not assigning too much blame to yourself; and (4) reframe the situation more positively.
6. Worrying about the future
We only have so much say about what our future holds. This is not meant to dis-empower; quite the opposite, it is stating a simple truth. What we can do is live in the present while fully exercising our God-given abilities and talents. This enables and empowers us to live a happier existence. There’s that phrase again: living in the present. Face difficulties as they arise, and then let them go. Enjoy the beautiful things in life and experience them fully … be present.
7. Being driven by fear
Yes, fear can cause you to be unhappy. To fully understand this, we must again return to being present. Quite simply, we can’t allow fear of the unknown (and/or the unavoidable) to cripple our quality of life. Fear is a negative thought process that is often on autopilot. Remember: you are not the sum total of our negative thoughts. You are not fear, worry, anxiety, or any other negative thought process.
8. Delaying goals and dreams
It requires no effort to get caught up in the routine of life: working, eating, sleeping, maybe a day or two of doing something fun or relaxing. But here’s the thing: by not directing our talents and passions toward a positive and tangible goal, we potentially discard something great before its realization. The hardest part of living our goals and dreams is taking the first step. After building a game plan and taking that first step, only then can we see the possibilities.
Nothing exudes insecurity more than negative small talk about someone else. After all, why would a happy, confident person engage in something that is of no benefit? They wouldn’t. Leave gossip to the kids at recess. It does not belong to adults attempting to make their lives (and others!) better.
10. Holding grudges
Similar to other negative emotions, animosity is a needless weight on our backs. We are all witness to the negative behaviors of other people and can become (sometimes justifiably) angered as a result. But remember: this isn’t about their ignorant behavior; it’s about your happiness. Either forgive, forget, or ignore… and move on with your life.
11. Eating poorly
Ingesting nutritionally-bankrupt food is all about immediate gratification. It’s certainly not about feeling good long-term. Eating poorly can result in bad health, weight gain, depression, lack of energy, and decreased productivity, while having a well-balanced diet bears the opposite effect. If you want more energy, a healthy weight, mental alertness, and increased productivity, eat right. Not only will you look great, but you will also feel great.
12. Expanding our problems
When we find ourselves unhappy and discontent, our first reaction is almost entirely emotional. In other words, we blow things completely out of proportion. After all, we still have that darned “lizard brain” (amygdala) – the epicenter of negative emotions. Instead, just take a step back, look at the problem objectively (with minimal emotion), and focus on a solution!
If you believe you gained awareness into any of these habits, you can keep them at bay by following the advice mentioned above.
Join the discussion: What negative habits do you try to avoid?