1. The belief that you are special.
You are a person worthy of love, happiness, respect, and dignity. But you’re not special. Believing you are special tricks you into thinking you automatically deserve success, wealth, the ideal job, the perfect home. And it rids you of the idea that you actually have to work for any of it. Life becomes so much more simple – and so much more enjoyable – when we learn to appreciate the process of working towards our goals, rather than spending all our time fretting over why we haven’t acquired the “perfect life” already.
2. Too much stuff.
Achieving long-term happiness is hard, especially when the (usual) advice is unappealing: meditate, practice gratitude, exercise, focus on the little things. These practices are not hard to do, but they require repetition, diligence, and patience. Which is why it feels so much easier to just buy new clothes, new gadgets, new shoes, and a thousand unnecessary things that we didn’t plan to purchase during our “quick” run to Target. The temporary high is instantaneous, but when the accumulation of goods becomes a mindless, never-ending habit, it actually increases more want within us, rather than providing us with the satisfaction we’re looking for. Buying stuff just makes you want more stuff, whereas ridding your living space of the endless items you don’t need actually gives you a sense of appreciation and serenity, rather than a panicky feeling of desire and thirst.
3. Spending time on ‘leisurely’ activities that you don’t really want to do.
How many times have you come home from work and watched three hours of crappy Lifetime reality shows without even realizing what you were doing? TV can be fun. Movies can be fun. Napping can be fun. But when we’re passively doing something without even thinking about it, we’re wasting time that we could have spent actively choosing to do something that would have actually boosted our mood.
4. Living in the past.
It’s fun to scroll through old Facebook photos every once in a while, or to fall into the black hole that was your Instagram in 2012. But when you’re spending large portions of your day dwelling on how much better everything was last year (I’m looking at you, recent college grads, and I’m speaking from experience), you’re missing out on the little opportunities laying right in front of you – many of which could easily make up the next (exciting, educational, inspirational) phase of your life, if you let them.
5. Toxic friends that aren’t really your friends.
People who only bring negativity, anger, gossip, drama, or one-sided relationships into your life are not your friends. They are learning experiences. Take a lesson from it, and move on.
6. Your own toxic behavior.
Sometimes, you can be the biggest source of negativity in your own life, or in the lives of others. Force yourself to be honest about your own behaviors. If you make up excuses for everything, or you’ve allowed yourself to settle for mediocrity in any aspect of your life, or you find yourself projecting your own insecurities onto others, you need to fix yourself from the inside out. When something feels off in your life, check yourself before you look at outside sources.
7. The belief that happiness is a destination you will eventually arrive to.
It’s not. It’s a process. It’s inside your own mind. It does not come with a certain salary, a certain-sized house, or “the one.” Those things can be wonderful, and they can certainly contribute to your happiness in a large way. But happiness starts with learning how to embrace (with joy) the things and the relationships that you already have, rather than focusing on what you still need to achieve or acquire.
8. Not continuing your education.
This can certainly mean college, graduate school, or some other form of official education. But it doesn’t have to. All it means is that happiness blooms in an atmosphere that’s consistently focused on growth, and you can do that in all sorts of ways. Reading books, attending seminars, exploring your spirituality, trying out classes that allow you to explore your passions, putting yourself in situations where you can meet new people that you wouldn’t normally hang out with, keeping up with the news, taking advantage of free online courses. Find whatever it is that helps to expand your mind, and go after it.
9. Staying up late (usually on your phone) for no reason.
Your mornings, and the rest of your days, are going to be a lot better if you go to sleep when you’re actually tired, instead of laying in bed and giving away your hours of sleep to random Instagram accounts and Snapchat stories that you’ll never remember. Just tell yourself that if you put your phone away now, you’ll have more interesting stuff to catch up on in the morning.
10. Endlessly comparing your life to others.
This will never, ever get you anywhere. All it will do is take you back to square one, where you’re losing out on happiness because you’re focusing on what others have that you don’t. But, we’re all human, and we’re all going to compare sometimes. So when it inevitably happens, snatch some positivity back by using it as a motivation tool to work even harder than before.
11. Settling, in any aspect of your life.
You are not entitled to have anything you want, with no effort involved. But you do deserve to say no when you want to reach for more. You need to put work, compromise, and flexibility into your romantic relationships, but you do not need to stay in a loveless, energy-sucking relationship simply because you think this is the best you can do. You need to work your ass off in your career, but you do not need to stay at a job that is not on the track to the career that you want. Never allow yourself to get complacent, but don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself when you think there’s another option out there that will bring you greater happiness.
12. Holding grudges, especially against people who aren’t even aware that you’re holding a grudge.
Nothing good ever comes out of a grudge. It only distracts you, drains you of energy, and forces you to brood over things that cannot be changed. Let it go, learn from it, and stop spending all your time thinking about someone else’s life, because you’ll forget to live your own.
13. Poor eating habits.
Cheeseburgers are delicious. So are milkshakes, fries, bacon, and donuts – in moderation. Delicious food is wonderful, but it’s not going to fix any problems you’re trying to swallow down with it. So start looking for the difference between (occasionally) eating something fun for pure enjoyment, and constantly forcing unhealthy food into your body because it makes you feel better for a few minutes about some larger issue.
I’ve noticed recently that the more time I spend drowning my time on my phone or my computer, the more anxious and disconnected I feel about the rest of my life. Technology is here to stay, and laptops and smartphones are not inherently evil. But the minute your behavior with it becomes passive and mindless is the moment it starts to take away your control, your connection to the outside world, and your greater sense of happiness.
15. Thinking about the future (in the wrong way).
Be responsible. Plan ahead. Think about how your actions now will pay off in the future. But don’t waste your life away telling yourself that your horrible job or your horrible city or your horrible group of friends will suffice for now, and that in twenty years it’ll be okay because you’re going to have a beautiful house and an amazing wardrobe. Instead, be grateful for where you are right now, because it’s almost already over. Choose what makes you feel fulfilled, and leave behind the things that drain you of passion and excitement. If happiness is a journey – not a destination – you don’t want to waste yours thinking that the answer lies in the future, instead of in the moment.