“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Everyone experiences an unhappy mood on occasion, but there is a big difference between experiencing a temporary bout of unhappiness and living a habitually unhappy life. That’s what chronically unhappy people do. And although many of these people are afraid to admit it, a vast majority of their unhappiness stems from their own beliefs and behaviors.
Over the years, Angel and I have helped thousands of unhappy people rediscover their smiles, and, in the process, we’ve learned a lot about the negative beliefs and behaviors that typically hold them back. Even if you are generally a happy person, take a look at the list below. Many of the unhappy people we’ve worked with initially refused to admit that they carried these beliefs and behaviors, even when the evidence stacked against them was undeniable. See if any of these points are keeping you from experiencing greater amounts of joy.
1. They struggle with self-respect.
Decide this minute to never again beg anyone for the love, respect, and attention that you should be showing yourself. Be your own best friend. Trust your inner spirit and follow your instincts. Accept who you are completely, the good and the bad, and make changes in your life as YOU see fit – not because you think anyone else wants you to be different, but because you know it’s the right thing to do, for YOU.
Be the person you will be happy to live with for the duration of your life. Don’t rely on your significant other, or anyone else, for your happiness and self-worth. Know that our first and last love is always self-love, and that if you can’t love and respect yourself, no one else will be able to either.
2. They are self-conscious about what others think of them.
The minute you stop overwhelming your mind with caring about what everyone else thinks, and start doing what you feel in your heart is right, is the minute you will finally feel freedom and peace of mind. In fact, you can end half your troubles immediately by no longer permitting people to tell you what you want.
You have to put your life in your own hands. Others may be able hold your happiness hostage temporarily, but only you can do it permanently. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” and “Happiness” chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
3. They are holding on to old grudges.
You will never find peace until you learn to finally let go of the hatred and hurt that lives in your heart. Life is far too short to be spent in nursing bitterness and registering wrongs. Grudges are for those who insist that they are owed something; forgiveness, on the other hand, is for those who are confident enough to stand on their own two legs and move on.
In order to move on, you must know why you felt the way you did, and why you no longer need to feel that way. It’s about accepting the past, letting it be, and pushing your spirit forward with good intentions. Nothing empowers your ability to heal and grow as much as your love and forgiveness.
4. The routines they follow imprison them.
Remember that the way you’ve always done it isn’t the only way. It’s unlikely that one of the things you’ll regret when you’re 70 is not having consumed enough beer in your 20s, or not having bought enough $6 lattes from Starbucks, or not having frequented the same night club for years. But the regret of missing out on opportunities is a real, toxic feeling.
The bottom line is that you’ve figured out drinking and going out. You’ve had enough lattes. It’s time to figure something else out. Every corner you turn or street you walk down has a new experience waiting for you. You just have to see the opportunity and be adventurous enough to run with it. (Read Eat, Pray, Love.)
5. There’s a lot they can’t control (even though they try).
Life is often unpredictable. Some of the great moments in your life won’t necessarily be the things you do; they’ll be things that happen to you. That doesn’t mean you can’t take action to affect the outcome of your life. You have to take action, and you will. But don’t forget that on any day, you can step out the front door and your whole life can change in an instant – for better or worse.
To an extent, the universe has a plan that’s always in motion. A butterfly flaps its wings and it starts to rain – it’s a scary thought, but it’s part of life’s cycle. All these little parts of the machine, constantly working – sometimes forcing you to struggle, and sometimes making sure you end up exactly in the right place at the right time.
6. They let their fears numb them from life’s goodness.
“Numbing” is any activity that you use to desensitize your feelings so that you don’t experience vulnerability or hurt. But by numbing yourself to vulnerability, you also numb yourself to love, belonging, empathy, creativity, adventure and all of life’s goodness.
Remember, every worthwhile venture in life – intimate love, friendship, a new business, etc. – is scary. These things are inherently risky. They are unsafe. These things aren’t for the faint of heart. They take courage. And most importantly, they can’t coexist with fear. When you open up to life’s greatest opportunities and joys it means you’re also giving life the opportunity to break your heart, but trusting that it won’t… that the risk is well worth the reward.
7. They are addicted to avoiding themselves in the present moment.
This is something we all struggle with sometimes. It’s also the root cause of nearly all of our unhappiness.
One of the hardest challenges we face in life is to simply live in our own skin – to just be right here, right now, regardless of where we are. Too often we needlessly distract ourselves with anything and everything: food, booze, shopping, television, tabloid news, online social networks, video games, cell phones, iPods, etc. – basically anything to keep us from being fully present in the current moment.
We use compulsive work, compulsive exercise, compulsive love affairs, and the like, to escape from ourselves and the realities of living. In fact, many of us will go to great lengths to avoid the feeling of being alone in an undistracted environment. So we succumb to hanging-out with just about anybody to avoid the feeling of solitude. For being alone means dealing with our true feelings: fear, anxiety, happiness, anger, joy, resentment, disappointment, anticipation, sadness, excitement, despair, and so on and so forth.
And it doesn’t really matter if our feelings are positive or negative – they are overwhelming and exhausting, and so we prefer to numb ourselves to them. The bottom line is that we are all addicted to avoiding ourselves. Acknowledging this addiction is the first step to healing it. So begin today by just noticing with curiosity, and without judgment, all of the ways in which you avoid being in your own skin, right here, right now, in this present moment we call life. (Read The Power of Now.)
8. The grass isn’t greener anywhere else.
If you feel anxious because you constantly feel like you’re missing out on something happening somewhere else, you’re not alone. We all feel this way sometimes – like the grass is greener somewhere else at this very moment. But let me assure you, you could run around trying to do everything, and travel around the world, and always stay connected, and work and party all night long without sleep, but you could never do it all. You will always be missing something, and thus it will always seem like something wonderful might be happening elsewhere.
So let it go, and realize you have everything right now. The best in life isn’t somewhere else; it’s right where you are, at this moment. Celebrate the perhaps not so insignificant fact that you are alive right now. This moment, and who you are, is absolutely perfect. Take a deep breath, smile, and notice the green grass under your own two feet.
Let me tell you a secret I’ve learned about happiness. Nobody is happy all of the time. It’s perfectly normal to experience considerable fluctuations in your level of happiness from day to day, month to month, and even year to year. In fact, according to a recent scientific study, overall levels of happiness decline from one’s teens until one’s 40s and then pick up again until they peak in one’s early 70s. So the chances are that your happiest days are yet to come. Hopefully that gives you something to smile about today.
by MARC CHERNOFF