7 common habits of unhappy people
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” Marcus Aurelius “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust Circumstances can certainly make life unhappy. But a part – often a big part – of unhappiness comes from our own thinking, behavior and habits. In this article I’d like to share 7 of the most destructive daily habits that can create quite a bit of unhappiness within and in your own little world. But I’ll also share what has worked, what has helped me to minimize or overcome these habits in my life.
1. Aiming for perfection. Does life has to be perfect before you are happy? Do you have to behave in a perfect way and get perfect results to be happy? Then happiness will not be easy to find. Setting the bar for your performance at an inhuman level usually leads to low self-esteem and feeling like you are not good enough even though you may have had a lot of good or excellent results. You and what you do is never enough good enough except maybe once in a while when feels like something goes just perfect. How to overcome this habit: Three things that helped me to kick the perfectionism habit and become more relaxed: Go for good enough. Aiming for perfection usually winds up in a project or something else never being finished. So go for good enough instead. Don’t use it as an excuse to be lazy or to slack off. But simply realize that there is something called good enough and when you are there then you are finished with whatever you are doing. Have a deadline. I set deadlines every time that start with a new premium guide. Because about a year ago, when I was working on my second e-book, I realized that just working on it and releasing it when it was done would not work. Because I could always find stuff to add to it. So I had to set a deadline. Setting a deadline gave me a kick in the butt and it is generally good way to help you to let go of a need to polish things a bit too much. Realize what it costs you when you buy into myths of perfection. This was a very powerful reason for me to let go of perfectionism and one I tell myself still if I find thoughts of perfection pop up in my mind. By watching too many movies, listening to too many songs and just taking in what the world is telling you it is very easy to be lulled into dreams of perfection. It sounds so good and wonderful and you want it. But in real life it clashes with reality and tends to cause much suffering and stress within you and in the people around you. It can harm or possibly lead you to end relationships, jobs, projects etc. just because your expectations are out of this world. I find it very helpful to remind myself of this simple fact. 2. Living in a sea of negative voices. No one is an island. Who we socialize with, what we read, watch and listen to has big effect on how we feel and think. It becomes a lot harder to be happier if you let yourself be dragged down by negative voices. Voices that tell you that life will in large part always be unhappy, dangerous and filled with fear, worry and limits. Voices that watch life from a negative perspective. How to overcome this habit: Replacing those negative voices with more positive influences is very powerful. It can be like a whole new world opening up. So spend more time with positive people, inspiring music and books, movies and TV-shows that make you laugh and think about life in a new way. You can start small. For example, try reading an uplifting blog post or book or listen to an audio book while eating your breakfast one morning this week instead of reading the paper or watching the morning news on TV. 3. Getting stuck in the past and future too much. Spending much of your time in the past and reliving old painful memories, conflicts, missed opportunities and so on can hurt whole lot. Spending much of your time in the future and imagining how things could go wrong at work, in your relationships and with your health can create self-doubt and build into horrifying nightmare scenarios and playing over and over in your head. Not being here right now in life as it happens can lead to missing out on a lot of wonderful experiences. No good if you want to be happier. How to overcome this habit: It is pretty much impossible to not think about the past or the future. And it is of course important to plan for tomorrow and next year and to try to learn from your past. But to dwell on those things rarely help. So I try as best as I can to spend the rest of my time, the big part of my time each day, with living in the now. Just being here right now and being fully focused on these words I am writing and later as I cook and eat my lunch and work out be fully focused on doing that. Whatever I am doing I try to be there fully and not drift off into the future or past. If I do drift off then I focus only on my breathing for a few minutes or I sit still and take in what is all around me right now with all my senses for a short while. By doing either of those things I can realign myself with the present moment again. 4. Comparing yourself and your life to others and their lives. One very common and destructive daily habit is to constantly compare your life and yourself to other people and their lives. You compare cars, houses, jobs, shoes, money, relationships, social popularity and so on. And at the end of the day you pummel your self-esteem to the ground and you create a lot of negative feelings. How to overcome this habit: Replace that destructive habit with two other habits. Compare yourself to yourself. First, instead of comparing yourself to other people create the habit of comparing yourself to yourself. See how much you have grown, what you have achieved and what progress you have made towards your goals. This habit has the benefit of creating gratitude, appreciation and kindness towards yourself as you observe how far you have come, the obstacles you have overcome and the good stuff you have done. You feel good about yourself without having to think less of other people. Be kind. In my experience, the way you behave and think towards others seems to have a big, big effect on how you behave towards yourself and think about yourself. Judge and criticize people more and you tend to judge and criticize yourself more (often almost automatically). Be more kind to other people and help them and you tend to be more kind and helpful to yourself. Focus on the positive things in yourself and in the people around you. Appreciate what is positive in yourself and others. This way you become more OK with yourself and the people in your world instead of ranking them and yourself and creating differences in your mind. And remember, you can’t win if you keep comparing. Just consciously realizing this can be helpful. No matter what you do you can pretty much always find someone else in the world that has more than you or are better than you at something. 5. Focusing on the negative details in life. Seeing the negative aspects of whichever situation you are in and dwelling on those details is a sure way to make yourself unhappy. And to drag down the mood for everyone around you. How to overcome this habit: Overcoming this habit can be tricky. One thing that has worked for me is to kick the perfectionism habit. You accept that things and situations will have their upsides and downsides rather than thinking that all details have to positive and excellent. You accept things as they are. This way you can let go emotionally and mentally of what is negative instead of dwelling on it and making mountains out of molehills. Another thing that works is simply to focus on being constructive. Instead of focusing on dwelling and whining about the negative detail. You can do so by asking better questions. Questions like: How can I turn this negative thing into something helpful or positive? How can I solve this problem? If I am faced with what I start thinking is a problem I may use a third solution, I may ask myself: who cares? I most often then realize that this isn’t really a problem in the long run at all. 6. Limiting life because you believe the world revolves around you. If you think that the world revolves around you and you hold yourself back because you are afraid what people may think or say if you do something that different or new then you are putting some big limits on your life. How? Well, you can become less open to trying new things and growing. You can think that the criticism and negativity you encounter is about you or that it is your fault all the time (while it in reality could be about the other person having bad week or you thinking that you can read minds). I have also found that my own shyness used to come from me thinking that people cared a great deal about what I was about to say or do. How to overcome this habit: Realize people don’t care too much about what you do. They have their hands full with worrying about their own lives and what people may think of them instead. Yes, this might make you feel less important in your own head. But it also sets you free a bit more if you’d like that. Focus outward. Instead of thinking about yourself and how people may perceive you all the time, focus outward on the people around you. Listen to them and help them. This will help you to raise your self-esteem and help you to reduce that self-centered focus. 7. Overcomplicating life. Life can be pretty complicated. This can creates stress and unhappiness. But much of this is often created by us. Yes, the world may be becoming more complex but that doesn’t mean that we cannot create new habits that make your own lives a bit simpler. How to overcome this habit: Overcomplicating life can involve many habits but I’d like to suggest a few replacement habits to what have been a couple of my own most overcomplicating habits. Splitting your focus and having your attention all over the place in everyday life. I replaced that complicating habit with just doing one thing at a time during my day, having a small to-do list with 2-3 very important items and writing down my most important goal on white board that I see each day. Having too much stuff. I replaced that habit with regularly asking myself: have I used this in the past year? If not then I will give that thing away or throw it away. Creating relationship problems of any kind in your mind. Reading minds is hard. So, instead ask questions and communicate. This will help you to minimize unnecessary conflicts, misunderstandings, negativity and waste or time and energy. Getting lost in the in-box. I spend less time and energy on my email in-box by just checking it once a day and writing shorter emails (if possible not more than 5 sentences.) So that I can spend more time on helping my newsletter subscribers, on improving my blog and on other things that are a win/win for you and me. Getting lost in stress and overwhelm. When stressed, lost in a problem or the past or future in your mind then, as I mentioned above, breathe with your belly for two minutes and just focus on the air going in and out. This will calm your body down and bring your mind back into the present moment again. Then you can start focusing on doing what is most important for you again.