Happiness is more than just feeling good. There’s actually a wide range of benefits of being happy. These benefits include making us healthier, strengthening relationships, and increasing productivity. Being happy also encourages us to make more positive contributions to society.
Simply put, happiness is really important if you want to have a successful life.But, what’s preventing you from staying happy on a daily basis?
Here are five common culprits that are blocking your happiness:
1. Self-defeating self-talk.
“If you are like most people, you know your inner critic all too well. It is the voice in your head that judges you, doubts you, belittles you, and constantly tells you that you are not good enough,” writes Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D.
Dr. Vilhauer is the director of Emory Healthcare’s Outpatient Psychotherapy Program and an assistant professor in the School of Medicine at Emory University. As to your inner voice, “It says negative hurtful things to you—things that you would never even dream of saying to anyone else. I am such an idiot; I am a phony; I never do anything right; I will never succeed.”
Even if that voice in the back of your head is wrong it doesn’t matter. That negative, polluted, and repetitive self-defeating mindset has already done some serious damage.
The good news is that you can stop beating yourself up by:
- Slowing down and paying attention to your thoughts. This will help you notice whenever that pesky critic is present.
- Separating the critic from your own identity, Dr. Vilhauer suggests you give your inner critic a name – a silly name for some levity.
- Talking back to your critic and telling it to go away.
- Replacing the critic by noticing your positive traits.
2. Avoiding deeply meaningful connections.
“Ultimately, the human experience is about connecting with other people. Connection is what provides value and meaning to our lives. We’re wired for it and research proves just that,” states author, entrepreneur, and photographer James Clear.
“For example, people with strong social ties were found to be healthier and have a lower risk of death. Additionally, it was found that as age increases, the people with stronger social ties tend to live longer. Friendships can even help you fight cancer.”
Research has also found that being in a long-term relationship, such as marriage, decreases the risk of depression, suicide, and substance abuse.
“And one study of almost 6,000 people discovered that marriage led to increased longevity while never marrying was the strongest predictor of premature death.”
Simply put, “connection and belonging are essential for a healthy and happy life” – whether it’s friendship, marriage, or family. We need close connections to be healthy.
In fact, research from the London School of Economics found that mental health and relationships are the key to happiness.
What if networking is a problem because you’re an introvert? You can get around the problem by starting to network online. Recharge yourself ahead of time. Team-up with an extrovert, adopt outgoing traits, and practice your elevator pitch.
3. Comparing yourself to others.
While comparing yourself to others is normal — we’ve all been doing it since we were kids – it’s a waste of time, energy. As Mark Twain said, “comparison is the death of joy.”
Research shows that comparing yourself to others leads to feelings of envy, low-self confidence, and depression. Constant critical scrutinizing will also compromises our ability to trust others. Additionally, researchers at Stanford University, Syracuse University, and the University of California, Berkeley found that people seem a lot happier and less troubled than they really are.
In other words, your comparison could be an inaccurate assessment and you could be comparing yourself to someone who really isn’t has happy or together as they let on. You know this is true. We all do this misjudgment of ourselves.
4. Lack of gratitude.
It’s common for us to become fixated on what we don’t have. We don’t slow down to take stock of what we do have. Pause and appreciate everything that you’re thankful for. I do this by writing what I’m grateful for every evening. But, don’t just take my word for it. It’s a powerful trick that has also been employed by Oprah, Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss.
Countless studies have found that giving thanks makes us happier. Psychologists Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami asked study participants to write a few sentences each week on particular topics. One group was asked to jot down what they were grateful for, while the second group wrote about daily irritations. After 10 weeks those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic, felt better about their lives and even exercised more and made fewer trips to the physician!
Other studies have discovered that gratitude can improve relationships. One study of couples found that individuals who expressed gratitude for their partner felt more positive toward the other person. These were also more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship. Finally, managers who say “thank you” to their team find that those employees are motivated to work harder.
Related: The Four A’s of Expressing Gratitude
“Fear has great power in our lives. Thank God it does, keeping us from doing things that could hurt us. One such hurt is like taking unnecessary and dangerous drugs,” writes William Anderson, MA, LMHC. “However, it is a terrible problem if it is keeping you from making your life better.”
Is fear stopping you from losing weight and keeping it off? Has it stopped you from getting a better job, having a good relationship? Has fear stopped you from doing and having any number of things that would make your life happier?”
And, we’ll do everything in our power to avoid this fear of “what if.” But, when we refuse to face these fears, they’ll continue to hold a great power over us.
“They make us prisoners and stuck where we are. Cause us to be unable to move from where it is painful,” states Anderson. “When we are able to face what we fear and accept dealing with it rather than running from it, the fear loses power.”
“When we have a method to take us to our dreams, whether it is a way to ride elevators without discomfort, an interview for our dream job, or a way to solve our weight problem for good, we can break out of the prison of our fears.”
Overcoming fear is all about replacing and overpowering it with something else. For instance if you want to start your business, but are paralyzed by the fear of “what if,” challenge that debilitating fear by:
- Accomplishing one small, attainable project each day, such as volunteering or finding a mentor. Start by devoting just 20 percent of your time trying new things. That’s not much!
- Getting your creative juices flowing through writing or learning a new skill or talent.
- Surrounding yourself with optimistic supporters.
- Recognize the true value of your life and talents.
One more thing; fear and happiness cannot exist together in the same brain. So if you want to stay happy, it’s time to lose a little of that fear in order to become fearless.
The bottom line.
When comes to your happiness, you’re the boss. That means that it’s your responsibility to eliminate the elements in your life that are reducing your happiness. Challenge those fears, and kick them to the curb.
Once you do you can start living a better, and more importantly, happy life personally and professionally.