Sometimes, it feels like you could be a bit happier, right?
I know the feeling.
That’s why I created a list of 21 things to stop doing to be happier.
My list comes from the premise that when you focus on the positive (and not the negative), you will have increased happiness, gratitude, and optimism. This is something I learned from The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.
What helps me is to plan my day by using The Five Minute Journal and the Productivity Planner (both are seriously amazing books to increase your happiness). I make sure to include actions that support the list of things below.
So, here’s a look at 21 things you can stop doing that can help you be happier.
1. Stressing out
Stop stressing out about the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff). Try to tell yourself every morning that you’re not going to stress out today; you’re going to let the day happen and be happy. The more you practice not stressing out, the more of a habit it will be.
2. Picking fights
If you find yourself picking fights with people, consider giving people the benefit of the doubt instead. It will make your life better and your relationships better. Because this starts inside your head, make sure you consciously decide you’re not going to pick a fight with someone or have negative energy toward that person. This takes a lot of willpower, especially if you don’t particularly like the person. But it’s so worth it. You can escape all the negative thoughts and feelings if you avoid these petty fights.
3. Judging people
Stop judging people. With social media as the comparison gateway of the 2000s, it’s increasingly easier to judge everyone. But until you’ve walked in the other person’s shoes and had their experiences, you don’t have the right to judge them. I recommend catching yourself the next time you judge someone (even if you’re just joking) and stopping yourself from whatever you’re about to think or say. The more you practice not judging, the more it will become a habit. You’ll find that giving people grace and not judging them will make you more peaceful and happier because you, in turn, won’t be so hard on yourself.
4. Being selfish
In the selfie culture we live in, it’s hard not to obsess over yourself. But instead of focusing so much on making you better, shift your focus to helping someone else. It’s amazing how instantly happy you feel from giving to another human being. Your relationships will be stronger and you’ll be happier all around.
5. Holding a grudge
Let go of grudges. Not because you should forgive the other person, but because holding onto grudges hurts you. Don’t give the other person that kind of power over you. They don’t deserve it.
Stop complaining. Complaining hurts you. Complaining encourages you to focus on the negative. Then, that focus expands and takes up your mental space and you become more negative. Next time you catch yourself complaining, stop yourself. Then change your thought to something else. The more you do this, the easier it will be. And the happier you’ll be because you’ll be focusing on positive things.
7. Making excuses
Stop making excuses. I heard Tony Robbins say there is only “do” and “do not” – there is no “try.” (Fun fact — I later learned that Yoda originally said “do or do not, there is no try”!} So, instead of “trying” to do something, decide to either do it or not do it. A good example is getting up early. If you want to get up before work to exercise, read, or do something else as part of a morning routine, make that choice and do it. It’s that easy. If you do what you say you’re going to do, you’ll feel better about yourself because you’re honoring your own word. You’re practicing the utmost integrity. And if you do what you say you’re going to do, you’ll be part of a very small club (because most people don’t do this). It will make you feel good, powerful, and motivated.
8. Obsessing over your future
Stop obsessing about your future. You can’t control what’s going to happen. All you can do is your best. The future will come and you will be okay. If you struggle with feeling anxious about the future, remind yourself you’re going to be okay regardless of what happens in the future. Since you can’t change nor predict the future, you shouldn’t waste time stressing out about it.
9. Being so hard on yourself
When you’re hard on yourself, you’re not loving yourself. And since happiness starts from within, it’s so important that you are kind to yourself. Be your own friend. When you learn to do this, you’ll find inner happiness that will extend beyond you to your other relationships. Your happiness starts with loving yourself, and if you’re too hard on yourself you can’t be truly happy.
10. Taking things personally
Stop taking things so personally. When you personalize something, you assume external attitudes and actions are targeted at you, when they may not be. Even if they are about you, you can’t be sure until it’s addressed head on. So, unless you plan to confront the situation, there’s no point in taking it personally. You don’t gain anything. You only feel bad. There’s freedom that comes with not taking things personally. The sooner you practice this, the better.
11. Being shallow
Instead of having superficial conversations all the time, go deeper. Life has become so transactional that you rarely get to connect with your mind and your heart. Instead of saying “hi, how are you? I’m well. Have a great day.” avoid the small talk. Ask deep questions and really listen to the answers. Continue to ask questions that go deeper. You’ll be surprised to find how this strengthen yours relationships and makes you happier.
12. Avoiding hard conversations
By avoiding tough conversations, you make things worse. You prolong the inevitable. You waste time. Instead, address the hard conversations now so you can work through whatever it is and stop wasting time. Putting off the hard stuff makes your life worse, not better. Make it a practice to have tough conversations as soon as possible so you practice responsibility and decision-making. These two traits will make you better off in long run.
13. Making decisions based on FOMO
Stop making decisions based on the “fear of missing out” (aka FOMO). This is a big one if you are on a budget. If you can’t afford something, don’t do it. You will be okay – even if it means not traveling to the next hot spot with your girlfriends. When you choose to do something because you fear missing out, you make choices that go against what you should do – whether it’s because of your finances or something else. This is a hard one, but doable. Next time you start to make a decision because you’re afraid you’ll miss out, stop yourself and make the decision based on your own values and circumstances. Then, go with that decision.
14. Spending all your money
Stop spending all of your money every month. This will make you so much less stressed. If you have money left at the end of every month (i.e.: financial margin), you may still get mad or annoyed when emergencies happen, but you won’t feel fear because you can afford to pay for the emergency. Financial margin is really important to happiness. If you have financial margin, you’ll be able to focus on other things that matter. If you don’t, you’ll be so stressed about money that you won’t be able to enjoy the good stuff. Start small – focus on building that buffer in your checking account every month.
15. Not planning for your future
In #8 I told you to stop obsessing over your future. Well, now I’m going to tell you that you need to stop living for Friday night. You shouldn’t obsess over 10 or 20 years from now. But you should plan your life intentionally so you have the highest likelihood of getting what it is you want in life.
I created Grow You where we talk about how to plan your future from your future. It’s a way to feel so much better while planning your goals.
16. Living unhealthily
Stop putting off living a healthy life. It’s never going to be easier for you to get healthy than it is now. Your responsibilities will grow and your time will shrink. So, now is the time to get started.
For health, I recommend implementing supportive habits (as opposed to cutting things out). For example, implement a habit of going to the gym every day after work for 20-30 minutes. Another example is to implement the habit of not eating after 6pm (a personal favorite of mine). The more you can habitualize your health, the easier it will be to maintain.
17. Staying in relationships with people you don’t like
Stop staying in relationships with people you don’t like. If you have friends that bring you down, stop spending your time with them. If I get a call or text from someone and I don’t have a positive reaction, I ask myself why and determine whether this is perpetual and a need for me to distance myself in the relationship. You don’t have to be friends with people you don’t like.
18. Forgetting to rest
Stop scheduling every minute of every day. Stop getting so much done. Yes, I said it – you actually shouldn’t schedule your entire life and be productive all the time. The reason is that we don’t consider rest (i.e.: creating margin with your time) as productive. So, you jam pack your days and weeks full of stuff at the sacrifice of your health and wellbeing. Since I’m a list-maker, what works well for me is scheduling down time just for myself to rest and relax. This way I am still being intentional about my time, but I’m also giving myself margin in my schedule to do nothing.
19. Making your to-do list impossible to complete
Stop making your to-do list so enormous that no one could complete it. Yes, you should set goals. Yes, you should get things done. But not at the expense of your happiness. Try stopping all productivity at a certain time every day so you leave room at the end of the day to unwind (that margin in your time I was talking about in the step above). Once that time of day hits, stop and rest – you earned it. Your body needs to recover and find inner peace for you to be happy.
Sometimes we need a little extra motivation. Sign up for my free Thursday Story Time weekly motivational email.
20. Doing stuff you don’t want to do
Look at your schedule for today and the rest of the week. What are you doing with all your time? If it’s stuff you don’t want to do, then don’t do it. Instead of committing to things that fill your time with stuff you don’t want to do, start saying no. Say no as much as you can to everything you don’t want to do. Then, you’ll be able to focus on doing what you love and using your time on things that matter most to you. If your days are not filled with things that inspire you and move you toward where you want to go in your future, then you’ll be right where you are now a few years from now. If you want to be happier, it starts with filling your days with decisions that move you toward that happier place.
21. Taking bad advice
Stop taking bad advice. Bad advice is everywhere because we now have access to information overload with the invention of the internet. You need to decide what advice to take based on a core set of values that you have. If it doesn’t sit right with you, then ignore the advice. People are wired differently, so what works for one person may not work for you. If you stay true to yourself, you will make decisions that are wisest for you, which will lead you down a path of living a happier life with fewer regrets.
A Final Note
By focusing on the positive things in your life, and changing your mindset to a more optimistic one. You can actually learn to be happier.
Instead of constantly scanning the world for the negative, look for the positive. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that you’ll have more creativity, lower stress, and more motivation to accomplish your goals.