“Our happiness depends on the habit of mind we cultivate. So practice happy thinking every day. Cultivate the merry heart, develop the happiness habit, and life will become a continual feast.” –Norman Vincent Peale
The founder of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, proposes that around 60 percent of your happiness is determined by your genetics and environment while the remaining 40 percent is up to you. Considering that you also have some control over your environment, you have a big say in the whether or not you lead a happy life.
Your habits are something within your control, and play a large part in determining whether or not you experience happiness. An important aspect of controlling your habits is being mindful as to which ones are taking happiness away and replacing it with something less pleasant.
Here are 7 habits that can steal your happiness away from you (if you let them)…
1. Comparing yourself to others
President Theodore Roosevelt once said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Oh, how true, and yet unfortunate this is. Whether it’s someone else’s physical appearance, job title, income level, house size or something else, comparing yourself to someone else is a bad habit that brings a heavy dose of unhappiness.
As with many other human emotions, our tendency to compare ourselves to others is as natural as it is damaging. It’s also something that you can learn to be mindful of and defend against. One great way of doing this is to become mindfully aware of your own successes and remind yourself of them often throughout the day.
2. Working a joyless job
As Americans, we are some of the most overworked people in the world. We also have the dubious honor of being the unhappiest with our jobs. Gallup conducted a study in which 70% of 150,000 polled were either “disengaged” or “actively disengaged” at work.
Chances are, you have been taught that work is not supposed to be fun. Well, shouldn’t it at least be engaging? It should be… if you are trying to live a happy life anyways. Working a joyless job for no other reason than a paycheck will almost certainly result in discontent and unhappiness.
If you are in this situation (and many are), don’t consider it acceptable. Find work that is personally fulfilling.
3. Allowing worry to control you
“Worry is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.” This is a great quote that we all should commit to memory. Going one step further, worry not only gets you nowhere, it can also extinguish the flame of your ambitions.
Worry is often a by-product of holding onto something that has caused you hurt and disappointment in the past. Do yourself a favor and let it go. There is nothing that can be done about it now. You have a present to be experienced, not a past to be relived.
Strip away all of the worry, anxiety, and uncertainty about your life. It’s pointless and often harmful. Instead, focus on your dreams and allow life to unfold as it may…this is where you’ll discover true happiness.
4. Thinking that pursing pleasures brings happiness
The pursuit of pleasure cannot provide you with enduring fulfillment – this includes material possessions.
In a TED talk conducted by Dr. Martin Seligman, he discusses three different kinds of happy lives: a pleasant life, in which you pursue as many pleasures as you can; a life of engagement, in which your find a life in your work, love, parenting and leisure and a meaningful life, which “consists of knowing what your highest strengths are, and using them in the service of something larger than your are.”
Throughout his research, Dr. Seligman has concluded that pursuing pleasure alone will not provide any sort of lasting fulfillment. Instead, a person must also pursue a life of engagement and meaning. Short-lived pleasures, if constantly pursued, will often lead to emotional letdowns and feelings of emptiness.
5. Taking your unwelcome thoughts too seriously
Possessing more brainpower than the world’s most advanced supercomputer is both a blessing and a curse. Your advanced thought processes are great for productivity, complex problem solving and meeting the demands of life. On the other hand, human beings have the innate tendency to overthink things, which can lead to negative thoughts that constantly replay themselves.
Remember this: you are not the sum of all your thoughts. Negative thoughts are tabloid material for your mind – unreliable and misleading. This includes thinking you are not good enough, smart enough, successful enough…you are exactly the person you were meant to be and you can do great things. Don’t read the tabloids.
6. Neglecting your passions
When you neglect your passions, you neglect one of life’s greatest gifts: doing what you love. Neglecting the things you love doing can be attributed to the constant stressors placed on your life: work, money, bills, and other things that come with living in an “always on” society.
If you can’t for some reason do what you love for a living, try to at least make it a part of your life. Follow your heart, your intuition, and your purpose. You don’t need to make money to pursue your passions in life; you just need to make the effort. Your happiness and passion is something that money can never replace.
7. Putting things off
Having to do something that you aren’t fond of instead of doing something enjoyable can be mentally taxing. Ironically, tacking these boring tasks can actually boost your happiness (please, keep reading).
Don’t just take our word for it – in a survey done by the Procrastination Research Group (there is such a group, by the way) 94 percent of the 10,000 respondents reported that procrastination has negative effects on their happiness, with 19 percent saying that the effect is extremely negative. The reason for this is mostly due to regret. In the long-term, you regret what you don’t do or have put off.
To kick the procrastination habit while boosting your happiness, practice temptation control. For example, if losing weight is a major area of procrastination, go to the grocery store with a detailed list of what to get. If you find yourself checking your e-mail instead of writing your paper, disable the notifications for incoming mail.
If you’re a chronic procrastinator, check out this site created by Piers Steel, author of “The Procrastination Equation”: www.procratinus.com