You feel it in your gut when things are going well. And it’s equally gut wrenching when they aren’t. We’re often told that happiness is a choice, which can seem banal at best and downright condescending at worst. Who are these Pollyannas prattling on about looking on the bright side? Makes you want to swat them upside the head!
But although there will be times in our lives when stress, loss or illness make it understandably difficult to stay positive, some daily habits can either cause us to be miserable or reinforce our sense of gratitude, accomplishment, laughter and love.
1. CLINGING TO TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS
While it’s easy to ignore many people we truly can’t stand – an obnoxious co-worker, for instance – it’s often harder to walk away from a friend, romantic partner or family member.
Relationships should be a two-way street based on mutual respect and the recognition that compromise is necessary when you each have different needs or desires. If you sense that some of your relationships are unbalanced, and you feel that you consistently give more than you get or that most encounters leave you feeling drained, it’s probably time to re-evaluate.
A frank conversation may put things back on track, or you may find that a time out leads to a lasting sense of relief when they’re not around to push your buttons.
2. TAKING EVERYTHING PERSONALLY
The bitter truth: Not everything is about you. If someone is rude it could be because they’re having a crappy day. The waiter didn’t screw up your order to punish you. When an opportunity falls through it’s not because you “always” have bad luck. Habitually casting ourselves as a victim inevitably makes us unhappy.
3. SECOND GUESSING
It’s a fact of life that not everyone will agree with your every decision. Take an honest look at your actions. When you do your best and act honorably you can feel secure in your choices, even if you don’t do or say what somebody else wants to hear.
4. BELIEVING IN “MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY”
You may the hero of your own story, but inflexibility won’t do you any favors. While it’s great to be confident, feeling overly entitled is sure to bite you in the ass at some point.
5. SAYING YES WHEN YOU MEAN NO
Don’t let anyone “guilt” you into doing stuff you don’t want to do. You’ll resent every minute! Guilt is a major happiness time-suck.
6. PUTTING YOURSELF DOWN
While endlessly bragging about (or exaggerating) your achievements is rude and boring, it’s equally important not to beat up on yourself. Be your own best cheerleader, celebrate your successes, and forgive yourself for the legitimate mistakes you make.
7. REINFORCING THE NEGATIVE
Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes we’re irritated with our partners. Sometimes our kids drive us nuts. But although we may feel vindicated after an occasional bitch session, constant complaining is likely to leave us feeling angry and dissatisfied.
Instead of focusing on the negative, especially petty annoyances, seek out friends and partners who reinforce what’s going right, encourage your goals and are truly happy – not jealous – when life goes well for you.
And when you DO need to work through a troubling problem, try to envision a positive outcome rather than dwelling on what can go wrong.
8. ENDLESSLY WAITING
“I’ll move when I find the right job.” “I’ll travel when I have more money.” “I’ll dump him after (fill in the life event).” Putting things off until the “perfect” moment is b.s. Because, guess what, no such moment exists.
Start small. Read about that exotic destination or acquire a new skill. Put aside some money a little at a time. Whatever you can do to move forward today puts you one step closer than you were yesterday. Anything’s better than standing still, and…
9. GIVING IN TO FEAR
We may obsess over past failures, hold on to worries, or be terrified of change. But taking risks is part of life and rarely occurs without discomfort.
Don’t waste energy feeding your fears. Challenges help us learn, grow, and discover how strong and resilient we are.
Chances are, someone else is (smarter), (prettier), (richer), (more accomplished) than you are. After all, look at their perfect Instagrams.
Wait a second; those images are all highly curated! The truth is, comparisons only add value to your life when they inspire you. Envying a friend’s happy marriage? Start dating. Wish you had that guy’s career? Learn more about it.
One foolproof way to boost your HQ? Take time to appreciate the small stuff: your good hair day; that beautiful sunset; a hot bath; the fact that you still have (almost) all your own teeth.
And it never hurts to eat dessert first.