Is it just us, or does it feel like life has the accelerator pedal to the metal right now? We're all propelling forward at the craziest of speeds with no "slow" road signs for miles around, and it doesn't look to be decelerating anytime soon. But there's a problem with that. When you don't have time to stop and smell the roses, it can make things seem bleaker than they are and really dampen your outlook. Many of us are still learning how to be happy in life, which can be extra challenging amid the chaos of our busy schedules. The good news, however, is the power is in your hands. You can choose to be happier right now. Yep, that's right—you!
So if you are ready to dial up your internal smile-o-meter, there are a few things you need to ditch first. And we're not referring to the material things either. Do you want to know how to be truly happy in life? Well, let's go through them one by one, shall we? It's time to drop off your emotional baggage and take that road trip to happy town once and for all. Ready?
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This is something that impacts almost all of us. No matter how much success we achieve or how many career goals we kick, self-doubt can hold us back. Those familiar phrases rear their ugly head—I'm not good enough, it's impossible, or why would they want me?—and all of a sudden, we're frozen with fear and hesitation. This internal language is dangerous and most of the time completely untrue.
Andrew Shatté, Ph.D., and chief science officer at meQuilibrium, referred to them as "iceberg beliefs" because they're major obstacles that you often can't see or realize are there. He told Fast Company: "We often find that an iceberg—like 'I should get everything done perfectly'—drives people to excel, so it really does have an upside. But unfortunately, human beings, being what we are, we never get anything done perfectly." Perfection is overrated anyway.
If you need help letting your self-limited beliefs go, then try reading Louise Hay's "I Have Unlimited Potential" positive affirmation out loud—our editor swears by this breathing practice.
If you're prone to this too, don't stress, this one isn't entirely your fault. From a young age, we're praised for being right and dismissed for being wrong, which sets a precedence for our behavior for the rest of our lives. Naturally, we equate success with being correct, and we fear inaccuracy will inhibit this process. But our constant need to be right is actually holding us back and making us all miserable in the process.
Psychotherapist Mel Schwartz believes the need to be right is "one of the most prevalent and damaging themes in our culture." In his piece for Psychology Today, he poses the question "would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?" Indeed, happiness should always be the answer we choose, but more often our need to be right takes over.
We challenge you to ditch your urge to be right—whether that's in an argument with your loved one or with a colleague at work—and choose happiness instead. It's not an easy test, but we guarantee you'll feel happier for it. Your relationship with yourself and others depends on it.
In today's career-obsessed culture, we've all swapped the path to happiness for the pursuit of perfection. We keep climbing the ladder until we're so far up it can be impossible to consider we need to step down a rung. If we do, that could be seen as weakness or worse—that we can't handle the workload. But while you're keeping up with your high expectations, your happiness is dwindling at every yes you utter along the way. Why? Because meeting them is an unrealistic task.
So how do you keep it in check and not compromise your sanity? First of all, you need to quit that people-pleasing habit once and for all. Secondly, in order to relinquish your unreasonable expectations, Margarita Tartakovsky of Psych Central said you need to learn how to spot them. "Keep a list of every unrealistic expectation you have this week," she explained. "Don't beat yourself up when you catch one. Instead, make a game of it. You might say, 'That's a funny one!' or 'So interesting I have this.' Or you might simply observe, I'm really hard on myself when I make mistakes." When you do this, make sure you approach it with humor and curiosity too.
When something goes awry who do you blame first? Yourself or someone else? Pointing the finger when life doesn't go to plan is a lot easier than taking on the responsibility yourself, but it doesn't help the situation. And aiming the finger at yourself isn't much better either. We understand why you do it, though. It's a natural defense mechanism when we're feeling threatened and need to preserve our self-esteem. But this is merely a Band-Aid for something inside that needs closer attention.
Well, it's time to stop blaming everything else and take responsibility for your actions. Stop and think why you feel the need to blame, pull yourself up when it happens, be gentle, and take note. Having heightened awareness around this will help you realize where it comes from so you can work on it from happening so frequently. You'll feel better for it if you do. It takes work, but doesn't everything that's really worth something?
You might not realize it, or pay much attention, but your diet has a major impact on your mood. We all know it deep down (even if we don't want to admit it), but while that hamburger or chocolate feels good as you eat it, the post-meal come down definitely isn't. Today's modern diet (high in sugars, refined carbs, and industrial vegetable fats) is not only making us unhealthy, it's also making us really unhappy. One study reported in the Huffington Post found "diets high in trans fats found in processed foods raised the risk of depression by 42% among adults over the course of approximately six years."
So it's time to give your fast food a nutritional makeover and introduce healthy habits into your daily routine. Skip the processed foods for whole organic choices filled with good fats such as omega-3s. Or if that doesn't work, you can always trick yourself into eating healthier, or make this delicious soup today, and eat it all week. Too easy.
Have you been putting your life (and happiness) on hold with all your excuses? If you have a long list of goals that aren't being achieved it's probably because you keep telling yourself all the reasons they can't. So it's time to stop talking and start doing. Ditch the tired insecurities such as What if no one believes in me? or What if I fail? and replace them with positive affirmations and inspiring mantras—this phrase will stop fear in its tracks too. But be warned, living excuse-free means taking some major responsibility, rejecting the what ifs and replacing them with what if I can? Just do it.
We left this one until last because we know it's the hardest, but it's also the most important. Forgiving your past and really letting go isn't easy, but if you can pull it off, you'll physically feel the weight of it lift from your heart, body, and soul. According to Matt James of Psychology Today, in "order to release that part of your past that you need to forgive, it’s helpful to remember that we’re all doing the best we can in any moment."
He explains, "If you had known that your action would cause pain to others or yourself, you probably wouldn’t have done it, right? And even if you knew that you were causing damage at the time, you had no idea how much you would regret it in the future. Retain what you learned from the event but release everything else." Do this, and you'll be happy at every age.
This post was originally posted on October 5, 2016, and has been updated.