You want to be happy.
So do I. And there’s good reason for it.
A growing body of research tells us happiness isn’t just a lovely feeling — it’s also quite good for you. It’s been linked to a load of life benefits including a higher income, a stronger immune system, and even a boost in creativity.
Psychologists Ed Diener of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Shigehiro Oishi of the University of Virginia conducted a study of more than 10,000 participants from 48 countries, and discovered that people all over the world rated happiness as more important than other highly desirable personal outcomes like meaning in life, becoming rich, and getting into heaven.
I guess the Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they made the pursuit of happiness an inalienable right. Happy people make for a stronger, healthier, more productive society. True happiness isn’t just that burst of joy that comes with getting a promotion, getting engaged, or winning the lottery.
Sustained happiness involves contentment and peace of mind, the feelings you want in between those big bursts. We all have a happiness set point, a baseline degree of a happiness determined by genetics. But beyond that set point, a great deal of our happiness is in our control, according to happiness researcher and author Sonja Lyubomirsky.
In fact, 40% of our happiness is determined by our choices and habits. However, there are many choices and habits that diminish our feelings of happiness and make it more difficult to move past our set point on the happiness scale. Want to avoid those behaviors?
If so, here are 50 habits happy people always avoid:
1. Dwell in the past
Constantly reliving the pain of the past keeps you mired in negativity, guilt, anger, and sadness. Keep your mind focused on the present and all the good available to you right now.
2. Remain sedentary
Exercise and movement boost endorphins, provide energy, and build self-esteem — all happiness-fostering outcomes. And of course, exercise contributes to good health which is the number one contributor to happiness.
3. Isolate themselves
Happy people aren’t alone. They enjoy time with family, friends, and work associates. They make a point of connecting and interacting with people. Isolation breeds loneliness and depression.
4. Focus on the negative
Whether you’re happy or not, bad things will happen in life. But after a time of grief or frustration, happy people don’t continue to focus on the negative. They consciously move past negative situations and thoughts and intentionally focus on the positive.
5. Get or remain in debt
Money difficulties and the resulting anxiety and stress that go along with them poison feelings of happiness. It’s hard to feel happy when you owe a lot of money. Happy people spend less than they make and pay off their debts.
6. Put material things above experiences
Material things afford only a short burst of happiness, but this quickly fades. Experiences, however, provide a richer level of satisfaction that lingers through connections and memories.
7. Hold a grudge
We all get angry or frustrated with other people, but staying angry and holding a grudge is like dropping a cold, wet blanket over our joy. As we dwell on our anger or how we’ve been wronged, we allow no room for happy feelings.
8. Forget to be grateful
Expressing gratitude is one of the top happiness-producing habits we can form. When you forget to be grateful for all that you have right now, you’re denying yourself a well-spring of joyful feelings. Happy people make a point of counting their blessings.
9. Expect others to make them happy
So often we believe happiness comes from having others behave the way we want them to behave. We think they can make us happy by saying certain things, meeting all of our needs, or giving us what we want. But of course other people can’t make us happy, and thinking they can only contributes to our unhappiness.
10. Stop growing and learning
When we stop expanding ourselves through personal growth and learning, we remain stuck in the status quo. We paralyze ourselves so we aren’t able to experience new adventures, ideas, people, and self-awareness. This leads to stagnation and depression.
11. Avoid serving others
Helping our family, friends, and even strangers we never see is a huge key to happiness. Service to others gives us a feeling of deeper purpose and meaning in life. It boosts our feelings of connection and self-esteem. When you avoid serving, you cut yourself off from a deep longing of the soul.
12. Remain overweight
Being overweight drags down your self-esteem and confidence. It makes you feel unattractive and unlovable. And of course it’s bad for your health, which is a huge contributor to happiness.
13. Let life get out-of-balance
When your life is out-of-balance, you suffer because important parts of who you are and what you value aren’t getting the attention they need or deserve. Your work, relationships, and lifestyle all need to work in harmony so you can feel whole and emotionally and mentally healthy.
Talking bad about other people is an insidious habit that is hurtful to others and to yourself. You demean and diminish yourself when you take pleasure in the pain, difficulties, or bad behavior of others. When you are happy and confident, you don’t need to gossip.
15. Focus on physical flaws
We all have imperfect faces and bodies. Some people have more than others. Happy people do what they can to improve their appearance, but after that they let it go. If you focus on your physical flaws, you diminish your self-esteem and undermine the real person you are on the inside.
16. Rarely spend time in nature
If your time outside consists of walking from your house or office to your car, then you’re limiting an important experience of contentment and joy. Truly happy people find an almost spiritual joy in time spent outside in beautiful, natural settings.
17. Let failure or mistakes keep them down
Failing is part of life. It is necessary for learning and success. We all feel bad about a mistake or failure, but happy people know how to learn from these events and then let them go.
18. Judge others harshly
Being judgmental of others brings out negative and controlling feelings and thoughts. Judgement can make you feel angry, superior, and self-satisfied — but none of these emotions are compatible with happiness.
19. Accept limiting beliefs
People who are happy and content don’t buy in to the old stories and limiting beliefs they may once have had about themselves. They are able to re-write their stories and come to love themselves as they are right now.
20. Live inauthentically
It’s hard to be happy when you aren’t living your truth, when you are trying to be someone else, or please others at the expense of your true self. Happy people give up people pleasing and embrace their authenticity.
21. Forget to manage stress
Life can get busy and overwhelming, and sometimes we get addicted to the adrenaline-fueled lifestyle of busy schedules and full to-do lists. But this adrenaline addiction does a number on your health, peace of mind, and relationships — all of which are necessary for happiness.
22. Avoid regular check-ups and well-care
When we’re too afraid or too busy to go to the doctor, we’re creating a subtle layer of stress and potentially harming our health. Taking care of our bodies is part of loving ourselves, and self-love is imperative for a happy life.
23. Put work before relationships
One of the top five regrets of the dying is not spending enough time with the people they care about. We are social creatures, wired to connect and interact with others. When you prioritize work above your loved ones, you’re denying yourself and them of the joy of time together.
24. Rarely smile
It has been proven that just the physical act of smiling, even when you don’t feel happy, will boost the happiness chemicals in your brain. When you rarely smile, you’re sending signals to your brain that you are unhappy.
25. Forget to laugh at themselves
When you take yourself too seriously and can’t laugh at yourself, you appear and feel grouchy and unpleasant. The ability to laugh at yourself is attractive and authentic and makes you feel light and confident.
26. Infrequently make time for fun
People who are happy want to enjoy life. They want to have fun and share that fun with others. But you have to make time for fun. You have to prioritize it and give yourself permission to enjoy the fun.
27. Take their spouse or partner for granted
Your primary love relationship is the most important relationship of your life. If you don’t take care of that relationship, you are bound to be unhappy. People with happy marriages are happier people in general.
28. Allow their personal and work space to remain cluttered
Your physical space is a reflection of your state of mind. Feeling cluttered and out-of-control diminishes your joy by adding stress, distractions, and overwhelm.
29. Avoid self-awareness and self-reflection
Those who seek to know themselves and work on self-improvement will experience happiness and contentment on a much deeper level. The self-aware life opens many new pathways to joy.
30. Forget to apologize
If you’ve hurt or offended someone and forget to apologize, it will feel like a thorn in your side until you remedy the situation. Your well-being is compromised until you say, “I’m sorry.”
31. Let others cross their personal boundaries
Letting others take advantage of you and cross your boundaries eventually shreds your self-esteem and peace of mind. As long as you tolerate these offenses, you’ll feel unsettled and angry.
32. Never seek their life passion
A huge part of living a fulfilled and happy life is finding your calling — the thing you are meant to do. But if you don’t seek it, you won’t find it, and you’ll forever feel restless and uninspired.
33. Act against their integrity and values
When your actions don’t match your values or integrity, you will have a range of negative emotions — from guilt and shame to anxiety and depression.
34. Never stretch, seek novelty, or take risks
People often don’t stretch or take risks because they don’t like the discomfort of uncertainty. But happy people embrace new adventures and are curious. They have the confidence to step out of their comfort zones, knowing a big payoff is possible.
35. Allow problems and issues to remain unresolved
Unresolved issues eat at you like a bad rash. They stay in the back of your mind, niggling at you and creating anxiety. Facing these problems head on is shortens the time of discomfort and negative feelings.
36. Avoid emotional intimacy
Emotional intimacy requires vulnerability and exposing yourself to possible pain. But the fullness of a close relationship lies within the depths of emotional intimacy. A relationship can’t survive disconnection and emotional distance.
37. Frequently complain
Frequent complaining is a sign of inner turmoil and dissatisfaction with life. Verbalizing negative thoughts only gives more power to the thoughts and pushes you further from contentment.
38. Hold on to draining, negative relationships
When you allow negative people to remain in your life, you allow them to steal your joy and peace of mind. We hold on to these people out of obligation or guilt, two emotions that don’t align with happiness.
39. Neglect to save money
Life presents us with surprises and opportunities, and you want to be prepared for both. You need to save money to be prepared so you can easily manage difficulties and seize positive options.
40. Over-consume — food, alcohol, medications, etc.
Everything in moderation, right? When you over-eat, drink until intoxicated, take mind-altering drugs regularly, you can’t fully experience your reality. Nor can you be fully available for the people you love. Plus over-consuming harms your health.
41. Let friendships drift away
People move, we lose touch, life gets in the way of our valued friendships. The happiest people in the world are surrounded by friends. But you must nurture friendships to keep them alive.
42. Stay in a miserable job
We spend nearly half of our waking hours on the job. If you’re miserable at your job, you’re miserable most of the time. Life is too short to give up so much daily enjoyment.
43. Allow sex to get boring
Let’s face it — for most of us, sex is a big part of a happy life. Routine sex becomes mundane and leaves you feeling disenchanted. Exciting, fun, creative, adventurous sex reignites passion and intense joy.
44. Allow self-confidence to sink
We all have times when our confidence takes a hit, but happy people understand the skills of self-confidence and how to bolster it when they’re feeling off. Confidence is a necessary component of a satisfying life.
45. Refuse support or help
Even the most joyful people have difficult times when they need support. When you refuse help or don’t ask for support when you need it, you delay healing and resolution, allowing negative emotions to fester longer than they need to.
46. Remain pessimistic
Pessimism is a bad habit that smothers the possibility of happiness. Seeing the glass half empty, looking on the dark side of things keeps you mired in frustration and simmering anger. Happy people mindfully keep pessimism at bay.
47. Fear speaking the truth
We all have our particular truth — our beliefs and our ideas. And we should feel safe and free to express them in a kind and healthy way. When we fear speaking, we are being inauthentic. Our low confidence keeps us contained and weak.
48. Have a big secret or lie
Those who have a big secret or major lie will never feel happy until they come clean. You may not be able to express your secret to your family or friends, but you can talk with a counselor or clergy person to help you decide how to proceed. An honest, open life is the foundation for happiness.
49. Rarely travel
Travel is one of those life experiences that should be prioritized over material things. It broadens our perspectives, exposes us to new cultures and people, and allows us to disconnect from our life responsibilities and stresses. If you don’t travel, you limit your opportunities for fun and enjoyment.
50. Avoid listening to intuition
Each of us has a built-in advisor and decision-maker. We just have to tune in. When combined with our intellect and judgement, intuition is powerful resource that helps us make the best choices, develop positive habits, and disconnect from negative forces in our lives. Our intuition can often give us the answer to the question, “Will this make me happy?”
Do you see yourself in some of these 50 behaviors that hold you back from happiness? What do you need to change in your life to create more space for joy, contentment, and peace of mind? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
photo credit: Lulu the Bold