Updated: Apr 25, 2021
Learn what habits and thoughts you can give up to increase levels of happiness.
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." - Mahatma Gandhi
Let's be real - unless you're some sort of weird alien creature who is on ecstasy 24/7, trying to be happy all the time is obviously challenging for anyone. We all need to release frustrations sometimes - whether that be through a good cry, hitting a punching bag or drinking a glass (or bottle...) of wine.
But although it is totally normal to have crap days, if we intend to feel joy in our day-to-day lives, shouldn't we at least try to implement everyday actions and thoughts that reflect this intention, so our good days outweigh the bad? Your life is the outcome of the beliefs that you hold and the choices you make both consciously and unconsciously, so what beliefs or choices can you give up in order to be happy?
Though the definitions of happiness and success are determined differently by each individual, the below are a compilation of things to quit if you want to have or increase a positive mindset :)
1. Comparing yourself to others
"Comparison is the thief of joy." – Theodore Roosevelt
In this day and age where it's all too easy to be constantly updated with other people's lives, whether it be their abundance of wealth, perfect relationship with their other half, or immaculate selfies that flaunt their flawless bodies, it's sometimes common to feel a twinge of jealously when scrolling through social media.
On top of that, society's timeline for success expects us to reach certain milestones by a certain age e.g. be advanced in our careers before our thirties, get married and have kids before our forties, etc. When we see our peers accomplishing these things before us, we may start believing these arbitrary deadlines and get trapped into a mindset of where we should be, which does nothing but take us away from the present moment, causing stress and anxiety.
But seriously, basing your own success by measuring it against other people's achievements will leave you in a constant state of misery, as there will always be someone out there doing "better" than you. Everyone is on their own unique journey, so it is absurd to think that any two lives should be moving at the same pace.
You need to learn to enjoy where you are at now, as you are right where you are supposed to be. There is no model of the perfect human being, so choose to be happy with your personal best and define success on your own terms. Stay engaged in the now by letting go of competition and loving yourself as you are - the only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.
2. Worrying about what other people think of you
"The more you love your decisions, the less you need others to love them." - Unknown
If you've ever found yourself sometimes focussing more on those who don't love you more than the ones that do, then you are not alone. Annoyingly, we sometimes let assholes live in our head way longer than they should. But the reality is, whilst you're busy caring so much about how other people perceive you, the majority of people are too busy thinking about themselves anyway. No one lies awake thinking about how much money you make, how big your biceps are or how small your waistline is... and anyone who does, is just plain creepy.
Learn that you are not designed for everyone to like you or agree with you. Obsessing over other people's opinions means that you are making their business become your business, and the only one who is suffering is you. Don't let moody Deborah's bad behaviour destroy your inner peace - you have no control over who people think you are, but you can certainly control how to react to them. Nobody can make you unhappy unless you allow them to, so don't drain yourself trying to win people over. Be okay with people being ignorant to your side of the story - you have nothing to prove.
The sooner you stop seeking validation from others, the sooner you’ll stop judging others too, as you'll be busy focussing on your own values and ignoring all the noise that does not align with these values. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, like minded people will be drawn to you, people who are willing to embrace the real you. You'll no longer be interested in convincing people that who you are is valid, and decide that as long as you know your truth and what works for you, that's all that matters.
3. Negative self-talk
"Your mind is always eavesdropping on your self-talk." - Jim Kwik
This one is a no-brainer right?! But we all know it is way easier said than done.
Self-doubt is a self-fulfilling prophecy - you are what you think. I am a strong believer of the law of attraction and that your life is a physical manifestation of the conversations in your head. If you live a life where you keep second guessing yourself and believe that you're not smart, attractive, interesting or deserving of the things you want, then you are sending negative vibrations into the universe which reflect back to you and become true. In order to emit positive frequencies, you must let go of your doubts and start believing in your worthiness.
Negative thoughts about yourself may feel like they are automatic, but you don't have to believe in everything that you think. The key is to train your mind to always come into a positive feedback loop where you actively choose to see the positives and normalise talking highly about yourself. Understand that you’re responsible for your own emotions, which means you'll need to pay attention and quickly acknowledge when you are having a negative dialogue with yourself and let it go.
You will never speak to anyone more than you speak to yourself, so you should always try to speak kind words to yourself. See your happiness grow as you learn to determine your own worth from inside. The world needs the best version of you! #PraiseYourself
4. Being addicted to your phone
“Simply put, humans are not wired to be constantly wired.” - Cal Newport
I've personally lost my phone on several occasions (yep, I'm a clutz) and have found that the time from losing it to retrieving it to be incredibly liberating, as I was free from feeling the need to text people back, update my Instagram story or constantly check if I had any new emails. My phone had been causing me subtle anxiety and I didn't even realise it!
If you haven't read Cal Newport's 'Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World' yet, give it a read as there is some serious food for thought for anyone who has been guilty of being a slave to their phone. Newport emphasises that the more digitally connected we are, the more we replace real-life conversations with instant messages or a quick like or comment via social media instead, which is ironically making us less connected.
Social media apps may have some personal pros for you, but if you feel the majority of your time on these apps is spent mindless scrolling, then you may need to minimise your phone usage to essentials that are worthy of your time only. Go through a social media cleanse by limiting your social feed to content that you truly care about. You don't have to totally ditch the platform, just be mindful of what you're following and decide which content you could do without.
Learn to cure your addiction to your phone by finding ways to decrease your screen time e.g. putting it on do not disturb mode or simply turning it off. Anything that helps you control your need to overindulge in your phone is absolutely necessary if you want to live a fulfilling life where you are 100% present in your surroundings.
5. Believing that a romantic relationship is all you need
“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Anyone who has been in love knows the emotional high that makes you feel like you're on Cloud 9 and nothing else in the world matters… and anyone who hasn't been in love might be wondering what this feeling is like and whether it will help "fill the void". But truth be told, you can't put all your eggs in one basket by believing that a romantic partner is the only thing that can "complete" you. Clinging onto your ideal love story or constantly chasing cupid can make you easily forget about all other aspects of your life.
It is common to mistake 'attachment' with 'love'. Attachment comes from a place of fear, attaching yourself to someone as a form of escapism from something you might be trying to avoid - which is why co-dependent relationships where couples do not know how to cope when the other is not around are extremely toxic. Love, on the other hand, is pure, kind, and selfless. In a mature relationship where love exists, you will help each other grow and are genuinely happy when your partner is happy, whether they are with or without you.
A romantic relationship might be a bonus for most, but searching for love shouldn't be your only goal in life. Throw away the idea that a partner is the only thing that can make you happy. Yes, they can treat you well and be amazing support, but happiness is only sustainable if it comes from within you. Relationships won't heal you and being single won't kill you. You have to love yourself first - the only person who can meet your needs is you, and your inner peace is your own to create.
"If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you'll find an excuse." - Unknown
A lot of times we use excuses which sadly limits ourselves. It's all too easy to put things off that we don't want to do to another day, whether it be exercise, finishing a project or finding a new job, we kid ourselves with all kinds of excuses so we can procrastinate for longer instead of growing and working on improving our lives.
Which is why discipline is so important - it is the strongest form of self-love. Discipline is sometimes ignoring current pleasures in order for bigger rewards to come. It is loving yourself enough to give yourself everything that you've ever wanted. The secret of success is found in your daily routine, and where you are a year from now is a reflection of the choices you choose to make right now.
Be mindful of what you do today because you are exchanging a day in your life for it. Every day spent procrastinating is another day wasted, spent worrying or feeling guilty for not doing the things you were meant to do. If you really do want to be happy and free of your worries, do it now and get it out of the way!
7. Your comfort zone
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right” - Henry Ford
Comfort zones are great - I mean, why try anything new when you are perfectly safe and sound with where you are in life?
But if sticking to what is familiar does nothing but make you more and more afraid of change, then honey, it's time to let that sh*t go.
Nothing was ever learned in our comfort zone, and humans are way more adaptable than we think. Just take the whole pandemic as an example - although it was tough, we embraced change and got on with it. It is normal to feel emotionally exhausted when we are going through a big transition, especially when we have to let go of something good for the chance of something better - it is not meant to be easy, but great change inspires our growth which makes it worth it.
If you want to book that flight or go for that new job, you need to take action and put yourself out there by letting go of the fear of leaving your comfort zone. Honestly, fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist - you create it, it’s all in your mind. Believe in yourself and live boldly. #NoRegrets
8. Your ego
"Ego is false confidence, self-respect is true confidence." - Naval Ravikant
The term 'toxic masculinity' has been a hot topic recently as derogatory behaviours due to fragile male egos have come to light, but this term doesn't necessarily apply to men only. Putting up a front to hide what we really feel so we don't appear "weak" is probably something we have all done at some point of our lives.
As talking about mental health becomes less taboo, we need to learn to be comfortable with being honest about how we feel and not let our egos takeover. If we are feeling hurt / jealous / scared - we need to be open to discussing our feelings without the fear of judgement. Negative emotions aren't ugly unless we make them ugly. We must let go of our vanity and see that we are all more alike than we are different. Healing is a painful journey, so sit with it and feel the pain in order to come out happy on the other end.
Stop "protecting" your pride by not admitting when you need help. I mean independence is great and all, but let go of the idea that you need to be completely self-sufficient to be happy, and reach out to a support group if needs be. Building a trusting community is one of the key components for happiness, so find your positive peer group that helps you shine. The more mindful you are of any toxic traits you might be harbouring, the sooner you'll stop letting them get in the way of you being the fabulous person that you are!
What else do you reckon you can give up to be happy? I'd love to hear!
You can find me on Instagram @mindfulmonkay :)