50 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Happiness

On this never-ending pursuit, you're your own worst enemy.

50 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Happiness
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Everyone wants to be happier. Sure, such a statement might sound obvious—happiness is a basic human desire, after all—but it’s a bit more complex than it seems. In fact, when it comes to happiness, many people (yes, you included) sabotage their own success without even realizing it. They repeatedly pursue incompatible romantic partners, or set the bar for success at unreasonable heights, or even just spend hours inside and out of sunlight (and, as a result, away from sweet, sweet Vitamin D).

Put another way: When it comes to the never-ending pursuit of happiness, you’re probably your own worst enemy. Here are 50 ways how, straight from psychologists, life coaches, and other experts. To maximize your mood, cut this behavior out—stat.

1
Dedicating yourself solely to pleasure

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It’s a question that has interested philosophers and ethicists for centuries: Can you be “happy” by devoting yourself to pleasure? After all, it might seem that if you have found a way to live your life by jumping from one luxury to the next, then you’ve really figured things out. But researchers would question whether that is an effective way to build happiness.

“Believing that a life devoted to the pursuit of pleasure will make you happy will sabotage your happiness,” Dr. Alex Lickerman, MD, and Dr. Ash ElDifrawi, Psy.D., authors of The Ten Worlds: The New Psychology of Happiness, wrote in an email. “While it’s obvious why so many of us believe pleasure in general does engender happiness, it’s also obvious that a life devoted to the unbridled pursuit of pleasure is decidedly unhappy.”

2
Laser-focusing on only getting what you want

stressed unhappy man

Obviously, we’re at our happiest when we get what we want (the fat bonus, the shiny new apartment, that brand-new pair of shows). But when you spend your energy pursuing joy and only joy—to the exclusion of doing things for others or seeking ways to create something positive for something beyond ourselves—you’re only setting yourself up for long-term unhappiness. More importantly, if you peg your happiness on getting what your want, then, if and when that fails, you’re bound to be disappointed.

“Our happiness is sabotaged when we believe we can only be happy if we get what we want,” explain Lickerman and ElDifrawi. “If we don’t get what we want—which happens often—we’ll remain decidedly unhappy. Even if we do get what we want, our happiness will then depend on our keeping it. And when we lose it, as inevitably we always will, what was once the source of our greatest happiness then becomes the source of our greatest misery.”

3
Steering clear of any and all emotional pain

avoiding emotional pain woman lying on pillow

Sure, this might seem counterintuitive; after all, avoiding pain is one of mankind’s driving forces. But, while it would certainly be unwise to actively cause yourself emotional pain, seeking ways to avoid it at any costs can hurt your ability to heal, grow, and become a more mature person.

“Seeking at all times to avoid pain turns out only to make us good at not feeling pleasure,” say Lickerman and ElDifrawi. “Further, pain stimulates growth and is often necessary for us to break through obstacles that are making us unhappy.”

4
Using social media as a crutch for validation

unhappy social media

Few little actions feel better than posting a pic or writing a quippy comment on Instagram and watching the likes roll in. But while there is an undeniable rush of endorphins at getting a burst of love from social media, it can create long-term damage to your happiness, according to psychologist and life coach Dr. Cali Estes.

“If you’re feeling sad you might scroll through social media looking for something to boost your morale, but anything outside your control that you would rely on for happiness [is going to hurt your happiness],” says Estes.

5
Proactively criticizing yourself

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Estes points to a common habit that eats away at happiness levels: Criticizing yourself before others can.

“To some, it is better to control their own failure rather than having it come by surprise,” says Estes. “In this way it’s easier to say that they knew it wouldn’t work out and not try to make it better. This is because, if they fail, they have to actually confront their failure.”

The cumulative effect of this sort of preconceived thinking is that you end up internalizing these negative views and not only start believing them yourself, but projecting them in a way that others believe them as well, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

6
Practicing “poor self talk”

things women don't understand about men

“Poor self talk”—that is, thinking negative thoughts about yourself or your situation—might start out as a preparative way to avoid a major emotional letdown. Over time, though, it can become a seriously damaging habit.

“What happens is simple,” says G. Brian Benson, life coach, TEDx speaker, and author of Habits For Success: Inspired Ideas to Help You Soar. “We begin to live out what we tell ourselves: ‘I can’t do this, I’m an idiot, I am a fool for thinking that,’ et cetera. The more we plant these negative seeds, the harder it will become…Every time we say something negative, we are planting a negative seed.”

7
Setting sky-high expectations

unhappy woman diasppointed

Holding yourself to a high standard can be a good thing. But it can be too much of a good thing if you set the bar impossibly high—which will only result in you feeling down in the dumps.

“If we hold on too tightly to perfection, our creativity becomes stifled and we are never able to truly enjoy the process,” says Benson. “For some, the pressure of having something be perfect keeps them from even starting. And for others, it never allows them to finish because it will never be ‘perfect.’”

8
Being judgmental

sabatoging happiness

Whether you assume the worst about the guy who cut you off in traffic or repeatedly criticize your partner for petty things that build up over time, a judgmental outlook is bad for all parties—especially the person who’s passing wanton judgment.

“It’s imperative to let go of judgement and show more compassion toward ourselves and others,” says Benson. “Being judgmental to others is a sure sign that we are being judgmental to ourselves.”

9
Frequently comparing yourself to others

unhappy man in crowd

If you measure your life—your relationships, your body, your career progress, your number of social media followers—against the lives of other people, you’ll never feel fully satisfied. The simple truth of the matter is, for everyone, in every regard, there will always, always be someone better. Best to leave the comparisons by the wayside.

“Society certainly isn’t doing us any favors with all of the body image advertising coming at us—advertising that can make us feel less than whole and send messages that we need to buy their product to become worthy and lovable,” says Benson. “Social media has also trained us to see only the best of others, while we unfortunately compare that with the worst of ourselves. Our self-esteem has been hijacked to only feel validation when others hit the ‘like’ button for us.”

10
Holding on to self-limiting beliefs

sad woman in bed, bleeding after sex

Show us a person who is “realistic” about their skills or opportunities, and nine times out of 10, we’ll show you someone who is putting unnecessary limits on themselves. Dr. Steven Rosenberg Ph.D, a psychotherapist and behavioral specialist, cites “self-limiting beliefs”—which are generally adopted as a protective mechanism—as a common way people sabotage their own happiness.

“As an example, if you want to lose weight, you avoid going on a diet,” he says. “The reason you choose is simple: ‘Why should I lose weight? I always gain it back anyway! These are self-limiting beliefs. The person remains miserable being fat.”

Rosenberg explains that folks usually do this because of an innate low sense of self-worth, but also as an attempt to control their own failure: Hey, if you don’t try, you can’t fail, right?

11
“Imposter Syndrome”

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You may have heard the term “Imposter Syndrome” before. In short, it refers to someone who’s achieved success—in their career, in their friendships, in their romantic life—and has become convinced, through self-sabotaging thought, that they don’t deserve such success. Needless to say, this is a major detriment to happiness.

“Many times, as a person advances in life, they become afraid of being found out as an imposter,” says Rosenberg. “This is the imposter complex: ‘I don’t deserve to be in this high-capacity position in life.’”

12
Scapegoating

Man pointing the finger at others, etiquette mistakes Shutterstock/TeodorLazarev

Of course, not everything you do is great. You’re bound to make mistakes—and it might be tempting in those situations to find someone or something to blame. But it’s just this kind of scapegoating that will undercut our long-term ability to find true satisfaction in life, according to Rosenberg.

“We don’t take responsibility for what we do. We always blame someone else,” he says, emphasizing that such scapegoating not only gets in the way of any attempts to address the underlying issues that are truly getting in the way of happiness, but can also damage relationships, friendships, and—most importantly—get in the way of allowing you a clear view of yourself.

13
Procrastinating

Practically every person has been guilty of procrastination at some point in their life, and for good reason: It feels good in the moment. But over time, it chips away at self-esteem. And that work that needs to be done

“We can use procrastination to keep us from feeling better,” says Rosenberg. “The more we put off, it may just disappear.”

Of course, whatever you’re stalling on won’t just disappear overnight. The work that needs to be done or the uncomfortable call that needs to be made is still there, as soon as you put aside the chore you’re distracting yourself with. Best to just break the habit.

14
Self-medicating

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Many, many people look at their issues or moods, and then self-medicate, whether with drinks, drugs, or anything else that activates the pleasure centers in your brain. Thing is, while self-medication may feel good in the moment, if you go at it for months on end, you’ll only chip away at your happiness (not to mention your relationships and physical health).

“Many people self-medicate with either alcohol or drugs to cope with these feelings of low self-esteem,” says Rosenberg. “A drug of choice might even be food. We can overeat through stress. These things can be dangerous because they are subtle. ‘Just one more drink or one more cookie…'”

15
Taking long commutes

Man Missed Train Dreams

Nobody likes to be stuck in traffic, especially if it’s something that’s a part of a mandatory daily commute. In fact, according to research conducted in 2014 at the University of Waterloo, there’s a direct correlation between long commutes and decreased wellbeing. At the very least, if cutting down your commute time isn’t a viable option, see if you can’t eek some enjoyment out of the journey.

“If you find yourself becoming cranky in rush hour traffic, make sure you have music you love to provide a private concert in your car,” suggests Milana Perepyolkina, author of Gypsy Energy Secrets: Turning a Bad Day into a Good Day No Matter What Life Throws at You. “Shake your shoulders, move your hips, smile and wink at other drivers. You can also listen to audio-books or even learn a new language.”

16
Waking up with an alarm clock

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As detailed in a 2016 study in Current Biology, there’s a pipeline between your circadian clock (that’s when you go to sleep and when you wake up) and your health. One of the study’s lead authors, Till Roenneberg, expanded on the research in his book Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired. The short version: Forcing yourself to wake up with an alarm clock—skipping out on sleep in the process—can make you depressed.

If you’re doing sleep right, your circadian rhythm should automatically wake you up around the time you need to wake up. If not, you should be going to bed earlier. It might mean losing an extra hour or two in the evening, but it will mean more happiness in the long run.

17
Letting little things get to you

upset woman Moms Should Never Say

Misplacing your keys, losing out on a parking spot, forgetting the umbrella at home—little annoyances are just part of life. But if you frequently respond to such inconveniences with fury or irritation, you’re just, according to Perepyolkina, creating a bad habit that hinders your ability to be happy. You’ll find longer-lasting peace if you can reframe such small challenges.

“When little misfortunes do happen, accept them with gratitude,” she urges. “In some cultures, it is considered good luck to find a hair in your soup or to break a cup. A little ‘bad’ thing is believed to keep the larger ones away in the way a small earthquake can release tension in the earth so that a big one may become less likely.”

18
Eating an unbalanced diet

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When you think of diet and exercise, you probably think of how it impacts your physical health. But eating habits have been found to play a major role in our sense of wellbeing and happiness in general. Dr. Bryan Bruno, Medical Director at Mid City TMS, a New York City-based medical center focused on treating depression, explains that we often overlook the fact that our bodies and brains need the right vitamins and nutrients to function properly.

“Vitamins B12, B6, and B3 facilitate the communication between neurons and the transport of neurotransmitters,” he explains. “A healthy brain means better chemical balance, and ultimately a better mood. If obtaining these vitamins is difficult for you through diet, there are plenty of good supplements on the market.”

19
Neglecting to exercise regularly

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Just as maintaining a healthy diet is just as good for your mind as it is for your body, same goes for a regular workout regimen.

“Make sure you exercise regularly,” urges Bruno. “Exercising at least a few times a week is just as important as eating well. Not only will exercise improve your confidence and body image, but it will also release endorphins in the brain, which [can] enhance your mood.” Don’t believe it? Just ask anyone who’s skipped out on session regularly and then hopped back to it. Or, just try it yourself!

20
Overworking

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Work can provide plenty of benefits: a sense of purpose, a group of like-minded people, money. But it’s also very easy to go overboard in your job, and completely obliterate any work-life balance, ultimately chipping away at your state of mind.

“Feeling bogged down and overworked at the office can lead to anxiety and depression,” explains Bruno. “To prevent burnout at work, section off your daily tasks and realize that not everything has to be done immediately. Taking adequate PTO and/or vacation time to keep you sharp and productive is also important.”

If that doesn’t do it, consider consulting with your superiors about reducing your workload.

21
Underworking

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While working too much can hurt your happiness, not working enough can also have a negative impact, too. Alex Palmer, author of Happiness Hacks, writes that, “Several studies of working people found that those who are employed for the full 40 hours a week feel higher levels of satisfaction in their lives than those working part-time. A reduction in hours is generally accompanied by a drop in happiness, while a shift from part-time to full-time increases happiness (though if you’re already working full-time, taking on an eighty-hour week will almost certainly not double your level of happiness).”

22
Eating lunch at your desk

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Speaking of work, sometimes your busy and just don’t have time to run out for a bite. But, as one 2013 study published in the Academy of Management Journal revealed, having lunch at your desk rather than taking a proper lunch break that gets you up and out of the office can dampen your spirits.

As Palmer puts it, “Put down that sad desk salad! However long your break runs, the key is to make it a true break, getting out of the office and fully relaxing during the time off (i.e. stay away from business lunches when at all possible).”

23
Believing your experience dictates your options

old woman feeling sad

Education is essential, and can prepare you for much of what you career will throw your way. But assuming your options are limited to a single piece of paper you earned when you were 22 is short-sighted, at best.

“People may succumb to remaining in the same job or income level because of this is what their degree is in,” says Dr. Tricia Wolanin Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and author of The Fragrance of Wanderlust. “They do not realize the numerous doors that are open if they only took the first step by taking a chance. All of this is fear-based. We don’t think we will succeed, so we don’t even try, therefore sabotaging our happiness.”

The same goes for job experience: Just because you’ve spent 15 years in one industry does not mean you can’t change tracks and try something new. It might mean taking some night classes or picking up side gigs, but it’s still possible.

24
Expecting your partner to solve any insecurities

sad woman with guy comforting her

A compatible partner is someone who makes you feel good about yourself and lifts you up in all ways. But heavily relying on a significant other to keep you feeling confident and happy creates a fairly vulnerable feeling of happiness that can all come crashing down if there is any shift in the relationship.

“If you do not like yourself, you probably come to rely on your partner’s approval and admiration to feel okay, but any reassurance that comes your way is only short-lived,” explains Dr. Carissa Coulston, relationship expert at The Eternity Rose. “Within moments of the last compliment or romantic deed that your partner expresses, you are doubting yourself again, and your need to be loved and admired becomes insatiable — this leads to problems and arguments in the relationship, as your insecurities slowly wear it down.”

25
Believing that your soulmate is real, and still out there

jealous husband relationship trouble signs

“Searching for your soulmate according to a perfect scenario with unrealistic expectations—like the idea that you will never have any problems—leads to relationship failure,” says Coulston. “You’ll build someone up in your mind, go out with them, only to find they have imperfections that drive you crazy. This will surely kill any relationship hopes you may have held for this person, and lead you to believe they are not the one you have been looking for.”

It’s not to say you shouldn’t seek out the perfect partner. But for the sake of your happiness over a relationship that could potentially last decades, you should realize that imperfection is part of a happy relationship.

26
Getting easily offended

Woman is at work at her laptop and is offended by what someone said.

Just as getting upset about small inconveniences can chip away at your sense of happiness, the same is true of those who get upset by the behavior of others. If you’re in the habit of calling out people for saying things you don’t like—and seem to do so on a daily basis—it’s likely you who is doing the most damage to yourself, not those who are offending you, according to Cherlyn Chong, relationship expert and “breakup recovery expert.”

“[Unhappy people] sometimes have a misguided sense of righteousness, resulting in the harsh judgments of other people,” she says. And this judgmental attitude will take its toll in the long run.

27
Picking fights in your relationship

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While every relationship has its moments of conflict, Heather Gray, MSW, a “mindset expert,” explains that, for some, “when they encounter happiness, they experience sensations, thoughts, or feelings inside of themselves that don’t always have a name but are deeply uncomfortable. They then release those tensions by choosing their self-sabotaging behaviors without even realizing they’re doing it.”

A prime example of this is someone who finds themselves initiating arguments with their spouse or partner, even if things are overall fine and they are in a generally happy relationship. Almost subconsciously, the person tries to bring in negativity to an otherwise healthy relationship, creating damage over the long term.

28
Distancing yourself from your friends

sabatoging happiness

The same kind of subconscious sabotage can take a toll on friendships, according to Gray. “When people are used to being hurt in relationships or have become accustomed to connecting to emotionally unavailable partners or friends, when someone is attentive, kind, and respectful of boundaries, that can be really uncomfortable,” she says. “Being treated with respect can actually be the thing that causes that internal distress.”

It can result in the person becoming suspicious of the healthy relationship, assuming it’ll go away, or that it will come with a cost. “As a result, they’ll test a well-intentioned person,” she says. “They might be brief or distant in an exchange, cancel plans, ‘ghost,’ or be otherwise irritable. In doing this, they’re operating under the internalassumption that there’s a catch to someone’s kindness, so they’re trying to either uncover it or test the limits of someone’s willingness to be unconditional in their regard of them.”

29
Pursuing someone in a committed relationship

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“Most people won’t leave their partner for you, despite how many promises they might make, or the sentiments they express in wanting to be with you,” says Coulston. “If you fear rejection and being abandoned, you may find yourself drawn to someone who is unavailable, as this type of relationship may feel more ‘safe’ since your married or otherwise committed lover can never truly commit to you.”

The end result, of course, is that you likely won’t end up with the person you’re eyeing—but will create a maelstrom of drama for all parties along the way.

30
Tapping the breaks on your career

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Sometimes change can happen fast, which can be scary for some. It’s not unusual for someone who suddenly gets a big break—one that might mean stepping into the unknown—to try to slow-walk their own progress.

“They might feel uncomfortable with success or with the expectations that come with success,” says Gray. “That unconscious internal struggle will kick in and they might try to sell their product with less ambition if they own a business, they might keep an idea they have to themselves after getting praise from a boss. They might have a sales call where they know they nailed it but they’ll avoid following up and getting the prospect to sign on the dotted line.”

31
Expecting that money will provide happiness

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In his book, Palmer points to a wealth of research that shows how big paychecks have not been found to generate larger levels of happiness, and in fact, “A study of the Forbes 400 richest Americans found them just slightly happier than the Maasai people of East Africa—hunter-gatherers who live in mud huts without electricity and running water.”

In other words, expecting a fat paycheck to lead to a wide smile is likely to leave you with a deep frown.

32
Surrounding yourself with unhappy people

We are who we surround ourselves with. One study published in The BMJ found that those who have happy friends (or even friends of friends) are more likely to be happy themselves. And the opposite is true too: misery loves company.

Clint Swindall, the author of Living For the Weekday, urges anyone to take a step back and look at the people they consider close to them. As an excerpt of his book in Forbes says, “Do an analysis of your circle of friends and see whether they add to your life or take away from it. Surround yourself with people who will help you reach your goals.”

33
Focusing on things, not experiences

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As Palmer writes in Happiness Hacks, “In a survey by Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert, 57 percent of respondents reported greater happiness from experiential purchases, compared with 34 percent who gained more happiness from material objects.”

Basically, you’ll get more satisfaction and long-term happiness out of experiences—whether a week-long vacation, or simply a fun evening out with a friend—than out of objects. If you throw yourself into acquiring the hottest gadgets or the nicest threads, you’re more likely to feel dissatisfied with them once the novelty wears off.

34
Hoping the fun of a vacation will last for a long time

time off couple in pool

In a study of 1,530 Dutch workers, there was a much higher average level of happiness among those who were planning  a vacation, compared to those who had returned from a vacation. Once they came back from a vacation, they quickly returned to their baseline level of happiness, while those looking forward to the enjoyable experience, had higher levels of happiness for sometimes months ahead of the event.

The lesson? Those who expect a vacation to create long-term enjoyment will be disappointed. Better instead to focus on a positive event in the future—you’ll generate much more happiness from the anticipation!

35
Getting Tinder brain

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When it comes to relationships, Tinder has hugely increased the volume of partners the average person considers when they hop on a dating app. But while the rapid-fire swiping might deliver quantity, it can cause a long-term negative impact on one’s outlook on relationships and general happiness.

“We’ve made people a commodity when it comes to dating,” says Trish McDermott, a dating expert and dating coach at the collaborative dating portal Meetopolis. “With a mindset that there are thousands out there waiting for us, we swipe people away for trivial reasons—his hair color, her neck, his eyebrows, the shape of her ears—none of which has anything to do with what makes a healthy, happy relationship possible. Or we instantly reject people simply because we think there’s someone just a little bit better, taller, thinner or possessing some other quality we’re searching for coming up next in the queue.”

36
Forgetting to appreciate the most important person: you

better parent over 40

By forgetting to stop and appreciate what’s good about you and your life, you undermine your own happiness. Susan Petang, a certified mindful lifestyle and stress management coach, and author of The Quiet Zone: Mindful Stress Management for Everyday People, suggests writing down one or two things you love about yourself, every day.

“It can be as simple as, ‘I have beautiful hands,’ to, ‘I am an outstanding problem solver,’” she says.

37
Forgetting the little things in life

thank you card

A common trait of happy people is that they stop and appreciate what’s going well in their life, whether it’s a good meal or a great friend in their life. “While being aware of our thoughts, feelings, and environment, we can also find wonder, amazement, and gratitude for that particular moment,” says Petang. “It’s not helpful to remember past mistakes and trauma, since it’s in the past; it’s not helpful to worry about the future, since it isn’t here yet.”

38
Taking life too seriously

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Some things in life need to be given careful, mature consideration. But not everything! Researcher Dr. Paul McGee has spent decades studying the positive psychological effects of humor, drawing on a number of international studies that have found approaching situations with a lighthearted sense of humor, “improves your daily mood, boosts optimism and improves your ability to cope with stress.” Approaching things in a more playful way puts day-to-day challenges into perspective and reduces their power to negatively impact a person. Taking everything dead seriously does just the opposite.

39
Forgetting to help others

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You don’t have to be a naturally selfless person to gain from helping other people. One of the most consistent findings of research into happiness is that doing things for other people boosts one’s own happiness. As a pair of recent major studies—one published in 2015 in Clinical Psychological Science and one published in 2016 in Emotion—revealed, there’s a direct link between random acts of kindness and increased dopamine levels. By focusing on yourself and forgetting to help others, you’re actually doing yourself no favors.

40
Staying away from nature

Pacific Crest Trail Adventure

One 2019 study published in Scientific Reports corroborates what everyone already knows: Getting outside feels good. In fact, as the researches noted, just two hours a week in the great outdoors—whether it’s a full-on hike or just a few quick walks in the nearest park—can provide a major boost to your health, happiness, and overall wellbeing.

41
Failing to understand yourself

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“People sabotage their happiness because they don’t know their own story,” says Mike Ensley, MA, LPCC, a counselor based in Loveland, Colorado. “They are not aware of the false beliefs that color how they experience events and relationships, or of the inner wounds that drive unhelpful avoidance and self-protection.”

Those who put in the time to better understand themselves and why they are driven toward particular types of behavior are more likely to find happiness and peace, according to Ensley.

42
Focusing on things that don’t work

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Wolanin points to a friend whom she purchased a card that read “it’s going to get better.”

“Although he kept it on his desk for a while, he reminded me this didn’t become reality,” she says. “He refused to see his amazing promotion that very few people achieve in his field, the raise, positive people in his life, the travels, and intimacy he experienced during the year. What he chose to focus on was the negative aspects that occurred. This was the medical illness, break-ups, debt, or people that have pushed him away.”

That kind of selective memory, putting the emphasis on all that didn’t work out and ignoring what did—sort of a pair of reverse rose-colored glasses—can cause long term problems for one’s level of happiness.

43
Expecting too much of others

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“One of the biggest ways I see people sabotage their own happiness is by holding unrealistic expectations of others and the world around them,” says James Killian, LPC, principal therapist and owner of Arcadian Counseling. He gives the example of “expecting” drivers on the road to be respectful and courteous, then getting frustrated and resentful (maybe yelling at the cars) when the drivers fail to do so. This can extend from random strangers to those closest to us: If we heavily invest ourselves in expecting others to behave a certain way, we are sure to be disappointed.

44
Comparing ourselves to…ourselves

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“I often hear people in my life comparing themselves to the body type they had 10 years ago, or who they were before they had children,” says Melissa Coats, licensed professional counselor with Coats Counseling, LLC. “Many times, we hold this as the standard for what we ‘should’ be in life, and we spend an exorbitant amount of energy trying to ‘get back to’ who we think we really are. The reality is that we cannot go through life without change.”

She emphasizes that it is normal to adjust to circumstances, and healthier to dedicate time and energy to loving who you are now, rather than comparing yourself to who or what you were a decade (or more!) ago.

45
Projecting

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Subconsciously assigning a negative feeling to someone or something else rather than seeing it as a result of you own emotional response—also known as “projecting”—may be eating away at your happiness. Coats gives the example of someone projecting their hurt or anger by saying things like, “My spouse is ruining my life,” or “If I just got that promotion, I wouldn’t be late all the time for work.”

“Usually this involves waiting for someone else or a circumstance to change in order to feel better,” she says. “But what actually happens is that other person changes or the circumstance changes and we end up still feeling the same way. The common denominator here then, is our own feelings and our response to them.”

46
Ignoring blind spots

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“We all have blind spots,” says Coats. “I like to think of blind spots as areas in our life that operate on a subconscious level and have the potential to be very damaging if we don’t notice them.” These can be patterns in how you relate to your boss at work, to your friends, to your partners—or even some other habitual behavior that you’re just woefully unaware of.

“Looking at a situation from only one perspective does not serve us well in the long run,” says Coats. “It may be more comfortable to rely on our own perspective, but we might miss something big. The beauty about blind spots is that when they are pointed out, we can correct the course.”

47
Not asking for help

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“I still see many people with a deeply rooted belief that asking for help is weakness,” says Coats. “We only have so much time and energy to spend in a day. So many of us are used to overdrawing that account. If we were to ask for help in seeing our blind spots, talk to someone about how we are really doing, see a therapist, or delegate some tasks to others, we would have much more time and energy in the emotional account for the things that bring joy to our lives.”

Remember that finding happiness doesn’t fall entirely on your shoulders. Others are there to help.

48
Keeping things dark (liteerally)

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Room lighting has been found to have a serious impact on people’s emotional states, for better or for worse. One 2016 study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that feelings of hopelessness correlated to participants’ perception of the lighting in the room that they were in. When the room was darker, the subjects were more likely to feel hopeless. Anyone who has popped on the lights during a dreary day can appreciate that illumination makes an impact on mood—so brighten up!

49
Staying out of the sun

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Few things are better for your mood than some exposure to the sun (but not so much you get a sunburn). The sun provides mood-boosting Vitamin D; missing out on it can seriously deflate your spirits. But you needn’t live in a sunny zip code to read the benefits! According to a 2013 study in The Journal of Biological and Medical Rhythm Research, even using lights that merely imitate the sun has been found to have a major positive effect on mood.

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Watching too much TV

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While no physical illnesses have been associated with binge-watching, spending too much time in front of the tube can, in fact, have a negative impact on your mental wellness. According to a massive three-decade review of research published in Social Indicators Research, reporting on data collected from the General Social Survey, there’s just one activity that’s negatively correlated with happiness: TV watching. So, instead of powering through an entire season of Stranger Things, get thee outside! And for more ways to live a happier life, know that Saying This One Word Will Boost Your Mood By 25 Percent.

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