18 Things Happy People Never Do
How many of these tiny, everyday things are you doing that could be slowly destroying your happiness?
Stress over their love handles
Our culture is saturated with images of “ideal” human bodies so it’s totally understandable if the way you see your body is depressing you. But the key to feeling happy isn’t to change your body until it’s perfect (spoiler alert: there’s no such thing), but to learn to love your imperfections, says Erin Olivo, PhD, a clinical psychologist, Columbia University Assistant Professor of Medical Psychology, and author of Wise Mind Living: Master Your Emotions, Transform Your Life. “I ask all my patients to make a list of what they think makes a person valuable and worthy of love,” she says. “Appearance is almost never on that list, yet when I ask them to list the things they think make them unworthy of happiness, appearance is often the top answer.” Bottom line: Your happiness should not be dependent on your appearance. Need more? Here are the secrets of truly happy people.
Give people the silent treatment
When you’re hurting it’s natural to want to withdraw but unhappy people make a pattern of punishing others by being cold and silent. The secret to happiness? Talk! “Everyone has a fear of not being loved, but happy people learn to directly ask for (and hopefully receive) love,” says Todd Pressman, PhD, licensed psychologist, speaker, and author. “Even if you don’t get the answer you want, you will discover that your fear of not being loved is not the ‘monster’ you thought it was, and this by itself is powerfully healing.”
Make the same mistake over and over
It’s not that happy people never screw up (oh, if only that were possible!) but rather that when they do make a mistake, they learn from it and move on, says Amy Benton, social worker, life coach and owner of Thrive Life Coaching. Too many of us cling to bad habits, even if they’re making us miserable in the long run. “Letting go of past habits is a huge barrier to happiness that you need to overcome if you want to change and experience growth and joy in your life,” she says. Not sure where to start? Here are eight simple ways to help you stress less and be happier.
Be so afraid of falling that they never jump
Perfectionism and fear of failure go hand-in-hand… for miserable people, anyhow. Happy people may feel afraid of trying something new or taking a risk but they understand they have to move past the fear if they want to succeed, Benton says. Unhappy folks, on the other hand, hide behind their fear of failure and then feel proven right when they don’t reach their goals.
Procrastinate until the very last minute
Procrastinating doing something unpleasant or difficult may feel like it’s making you happy in the short run (because, hey, you’re not doing whatever it is you don’t want to do!). But happy folks don’t procrastinate, recognizing that the fleeting relief now will be overshadowed by the dread and fear of the looming deadline. Just can’t help yourself? “Commit to concentrate on doing a task for just 15 minutes after which you can take a break if you need to,” says Hoan Do, a life and success coach.
Play the victim (even if they are)
Has someone done you wrong? Probably, it happens to all of us, but when it comes to happiness that isn’t the point, Do says. “Happy people don’t blame others, they take responsibility for themselves,” Do says. “To be happy you need to switch from a victim mindset to a creative mindset because creators have choices and power — victims don’t.”
Volunteer to be the PTA president, project manager, soccer coach, and homemade cookie baker
Are you overworked and overwhelmed? That’s a fast-track to misery and yet so many of us feel like we just can’t say no and take on way too much, Do says. “I see a lot of people who are always multitasking and think they are good at it but the truth is they often get less done overall.” Happy people focus on their priorities and what the most valuable use of their time is, Do adds. Another easy tip? Why cutting sugar from your diet can make you happier.
Weigh all opinions equally
Just because someone says it doesn’t mean you have to believe it — especially if they are talking about you! Happy people are able to identify those whose opinion and advice means the most to them and block out the rest (even if it’s well-intentioned). “Only take life advice from people you admire and would want to be in their shoes,” says Gina Marotta, life coach and founder of The Genius Guru.
Do something without asking, “Why?” first
How often do you do something simply because you’re asked to do it? Plenty of us go through life blindly, going from one “emergency” to the next without ever taking the time to figure out why it’s so important, Marotta says. “Happy people discover the deeper purpose in what they are doing and act consistent with that goal,” she explains. “When you act from a sense of higher calling, you bring an energy and joy to your work and life, even when things are tough.”
Lose hope (at least not for long)
When life’s storms eventually hit, you can focus on the hurricane surrounding you or you can look for the reprieve coming eventually. The former will keep you feeling trapped and beaten down while the latter will keep you moving you forward no matter what, Marotta says. “Be patient. Hang in there. Repeat to yourself ‘It will work out.’ And it will,” she adds.
“Should” all over themselves
Doing something for others will always feel like work but do that same task for yourself and it will feel like joy. “The ‘should’ shouldn’t make you feel bad,” says Megan Bearce, licensed marriage and family therapist. “I often hear things like ‘I should be thinner’ or ‘I should go to law school.’ I always ask them whose ‘should’ is that? Whose ruler are you measuring yourself with? If you do it, will it lead you toward your goals or make you unhappy or resentful?”
Use these two words
Is your to-do list bumming you out? Happy people accomplish their daily goals without getting overwhelmed by making this tiny one-word change: “Every time you have to get something done, change ‘I should’ to ‘I want’,” says Roger Ziegler, a counselor and life coach. Say it out loud and as many times as it takes to help you believe it. It’s subtle but changing your intention can change how sad or happy a task makes you feel.
Ignore their dreams
Obviously happy people pay attention to their dreams in life and take time to write down their goals but the same is true for the nocturnal variety as well, Ziegler says. “You can use your dreams as a life guide to help you find happiness,” he says. “Ask yourself a question before you go to bed and when you wake up, record your answer in a notebook by your bed.” You’ll be amazed at how well your subconscious knows what you need to be happy.
Related: What do your dreams really mean?
Call themselves names
When you make a mistake is your automatic response “I’m such an idiot!” or “Why am I so stupid?” or “Bad things always happen to me!”? Berating yourself does you no good, says Akshay Nanavati, life coach, author, and creator of Fearvana. It’s fine to feel painful feelings and be upset but don’t assign a value judgment to your feelings. “The single greatest mental ailment that unhappy people suffer from is passing judgment on their emotions,” he says. “Neuroscience has shown we don’t control our feelings but rather how we respond to them.” Bottom line: Stop the shame spiral before it starts.
Need everyone to love them
Being loved by every single person you meet may sound awesome but in reality, it’s likely evidence that you’re a people-pleaser, so focused on what others think that you lose your own sense of self. To be truly happy you have to accept yourself first and then reach out to others, understanding that not everyone will like you and that’s fine, says Kelsey Silver, licensed marriage and family counselor and author of Crack the Social Code. “When you maximize your own feelings of self-acceptance and confidence you figuratively glow and attract others to you,” she says.
Let their health go
Physical and mental health are inseparable so if you want to feel happy you need to take care of your body, says Katherine Schafler, LMHC, a licensed therapist. This doesn’t mean achieving some unattainable standard of perfection with six-pack abs and luxurious hair. Rather, happy people take the time to care for themselves by eating nutritious food and exercising. “Your body is all yours,” she says. “It’s yours to enjoy, nourish, touch, energize, lull to sleep and love. Your amazing body will take you wherever you want to go, and if you want to go far, you need to take care of it.”
Forget their blessings
“The first thing I do every morning is recite three things I’m grateful for out loud,” says Zen Cachola, life coach and founder of Aspired Steps. One of the best things you can do to feel instantly happier is to forget about having what you want and focus on wanting what you have.
Ditch their bucket list
Happy people are often list-makers, says Kayce Hodos, a licensed professional counselor. And with good reason: “Make lists of places you want to visit, things you want to learn, accomplishments you’ve made, goals for the future,” she says. “This will help you visualize the life you want and what you can do to achieve it.”
Originally published as 18 Things Happy People Never Do (So You Shouldn’t Either) on ReadersDigest.com.