Martha Washington, the wife of the first President of the United States, George Washington, once famously said: “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.”
Happiness is something that every human being strives to attain. As mortals, we can accept the facts that life is short, and that unhappiness makes our lives difficult. Habits have a big impact on the quality of life that we live and directly impact our happiness (or the lack of it).
To make a clear distinction, there is a strong difference between clinical depression and chronic unhappiness. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, while unhappiness is a disposition that’s a matter of choice or simply a habit one has been stuck into for a long time. Similar to depression, unhappiness can be diagnosed and treated.
Here are twelve habits that can lead to unhappiness, all of which can be avoided or discarded.
1. Chronic complaining
Happy and successful people rarely complain much, while chronic complainers seem like they always have something negative to say – even when surrounded by happy people! The bottom line: we all have different circumstances that we are given in our lives, but ultimately whether they are fair or unfair, wanted or unwanted we need to keep seeking solutions to problems instead of complaining, which leads nowhere.
2. Being critical – of self and others
How we talk to ourselves shapes our self-image, for better or worse. Self-worth is an essential component to happiness, and feeling good about ourselves is a right that we all have. It is important to realize when mistakes are made, accept them, and move on without engaging in negative self-talk. Furthermore, try to respect the inherent differences of others and recognize their right to live happily and without undue criticism.
3. Living beyond one’s means
We live in a materialistic society, one where we are constantly bombarded with advertisements for the latest car, gadget, or credit card; all promising an easier, more fulfilling existence. Don’t believe it for a second. While purchasing a new product may provide a needed emotional boost, it rarely ever lasts and the term “buyer’s remorse” exists for a reason. Seek out something more real than whipping out a piece of plastic – exercise, reading, sightseeing, etc. that will bring immaterial satisfaction and no debt.
4. Negative addictions
Most things are good in moderation – food, a drink or two, entertainment… it’s when these things take center stage in our lives that it becomes a problem. Unfortunately, many good people have met their end through addictive habits, especially through dependence on alcohol and drugs. A great preventative measure and remedy to these addictions is to find and live our passions to the greatest extent possible.
5. Regretting the past
Regret is not only useless, it can be extremely harmful. Research continues to show that repetitive, negative thoughts about decisions made in the past is often a precursor to chronic stress and depression. According to Psychology Today, there are four ways to cope with regret: (1) learn from the mistakes but don’t dwell, (2) if nothing can be changed about the situation, let it go, (3) make sure too much blame is not being undertaken, and (4) reframe the situation more positively.
6. Worrying about the future
We only have so much say in what our future holds. What we can do is live in the present while fully exercising our abilities and talents that enable and empower us to live a happier existence. Live in the present, face difficulties as they arise and let them go. Enjoy the beautiful things in life and experience them fully.
7. Being driven by fear
Yes, fear can be an enabler to unhappiness. Simply put, one cannot allow fear of the unknown (and/or the unavoidable) to cripple their quality of life. Fear is a negative thought process that is often running on autopilot. Remember: we are not our negative thoughts. We are not fear, worry, anxiety, or any other negative thought process.
8. Delaying goals and dreams
It’s relatively easy, almost effortless to get caught up in the routine of life: working, eating, sleeping, maybe even a day or two of doing something fun or relaxing. By not directing our talents and passions toward a positive and tangible goal, however, we potentially discard something great. The hardest part of living out our goals and dreams is taking the first step. It is only after building a game plan taking that first step that one can see all the possibilities.
Source: Power of Positivity
Nothing exudes unhappiness and insecurity more than negative small talk about someone else. After all, why would a happy, confident person engage in something that is of no benefit whatsoever? They simply wouldn’t. Gossip is something to be left to the kids at recess, not to adults attempting to make their lives better.
10. Holding grudges
Similar to other negative emotions, animosity is a needless weight on our backs. Everyone has been a witness to the negative behavior of other people and can become (sometimes justifiably) angered as a result. But remember: this isn’t about their ignorant behavior; it’s about your happiness. Either forgive, forget, ignore, or move on with your life.
11. Eating poorly
Ingesting nutritionally-bankrupt food is all about immediate gratification, and it has nothing to do with feeling good long-term. Eating poorly can result in bad health, weight gain, depression, lack of energy and decreased productivity. Having a well-balanced diet on the other hand results in an entirely opposite effect – more energy, a healthy weight, mental alertness, and increased productivity. Eat right, look great, and you will feel great.
12. Expanding our problems
When we experience unhappiness and discontent, our first reaction more often than not is almost entirely emotional. In other words, we blow things completely out of proportion. After all, humans still have the “lizard brain” (amygdala) – the epicenter of negative emotions. Instead, you should always attempt to just take a step back, look at the problem objectively with minimal emotion involved, and focus on a solution!