To Be Happier and Mentally Healthier, Ditch These 7 Habits

Photo by Jason Yoder on Unsplash

Want to be happy?

Course you do. It’s a naive, if not insulting, question.

But how? And especially how in a world that’s been turned upside down by a pandemic and a horizon glittering with uncertainty.

When people sign on to therapy with happiness as a goal, we always dig into what that means for them. And — surprise, surprise — it doesn’t usually mean a Porsche, a private jet and houses for every season.

It usually means freedom from angst and pain, a feeling of contentment and exploring whatever it takes to create more of it.

It also means ditching the things guaranteed to make you feel worse. Here are seven of the best.

7 Habits to Ditch for Happiness and Health

“Happiness grows at our own firesides, and is not to be picked in strangers’ gardens.”– Douglas Jerrold

1. Cramming your days with activity.

I know, there’s a lot of sh*t to do. And, if we want to maintain any sort of order in our lives, we have to do it. But there’s also a lot of sh*t we don’t have to do, but we do anyway — because it makes us feel important/valuable/kind or that we’re keeping up with (or better than) others.

A lot of people use busyness as an antidote to anxiety. It works, up to a point. But, beyond that point, it’s an exhausting, mentally destructive, no-win game. Take an inventory of all the “stuff” in your life, then slash and burn all that’s unnecessary. Train yourself to do the things that truly matter — then be massively selective about the rest.

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2. Hanging out with negative people.

Look, our people are our people. It’s not easy to ditch people we love because they, er, moan a bit. But we can put boundaries around the amount of time we spend with them and — in some cases — we can edge away. If you have trouble figuring out how much your people are affecting your mood, pause to take note of the feeling you get when you’ve been with a particular person or group. Then you’ll know what you need to do.

3. Worrying about other people’s choices.

It’s human to worry about other people — especially those close to us, especially our kids. (Parents never stop). But we pour way too much energy into worrying about what other people are doing. What they’ve CHOSEN to do. In essence, it’s none of our business. The old saying, “if you love them, set them free” is true. And, if you don’t love them, why are you wasting any worry time at all on them? Perhaps you need to ask why you are so invested?

4. Your intense relationship with devices.

We’re all in relationships with our devices. To be fair, our phones make pretty good buddies, they’re there for us 24/7, they do what we want and they don’t answer back. They’ve made life easier — and often more fun — too.

But they can also make us jittery and anxious and their content can trigger distress, anger, hurt, unhelpful comparisons, unworthiness — and a raft of other unhealthy emotions. You don’t have to break up with your devices, but have an open relationship; don’t let them monopolise you.

5. Relying on other people to feel better.

Other people can provide real comfort in times of stress. Opening up to a friend or family member when you’re struggling is great — healthy AND courageous. So is seeing a therapist. But you also need to be able to self-soothe — to calm down or unwind or pick yourself up. Having a strategy or two of your own makes you feel stronger and less vulnerable out in the world.

6. Ruminating on things you can’t control.

The past, the future, American politics — or any politics — the crazy, upsetting, hurtful beliefs and actions of others, the state of the world and environment, where the Joneses are going for Christmas — there are a lot of uncontrollables out there and it’s exhausting to worry about all of them. It’s good to be aware of what’s going on but it’s also important to remember our place in the scheme things, to focus on what we can do — then go do it.

7. Shaping your life to please others.

People pleasers tend to get a tough rap. But every decent person in the world has a little people pleaser in them. It’s a fine human quality to want to make others happy and it’s natural to want their approval.

But when you shape lives around the needs or wishes of others, the outcomes are disillusioning, even sad. It’s your life. At the end of it, there’s only one person who’ll judge on your choices. You know who that is, don’t you?

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