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Happiness Really is a Choice (and Some Habit Trashing)

Which habits no longer serve you?

Amazon has 13,184 book titles that contain the word “happiness” in its self-help section. That’s a lot of pages on how to find happiness. There are books on changing your thinking; there are books on self-actualization; there are books on becoming more giving, more loving, and more unselfish. Sometimes, however, happiness is a matter of giving up bad habits that we have somehow accumulated over the years and that now fill our personal “backpack.” You may have slipped into some of these 13 habits, so it is worth taking a look.

1. Workaholism

We all work longer hours and we are all committed to completing those tasks that we are assigned. For some, however, work becomes an all-consuming activity, an obsession that cannot be “turned off.” It is hard to reverse this, because now clients, bosses, etc. are now expecting the same amount of work product from you. You may want to back off gradually, setting aside at least 2-3 hours a day in which you do something completely selfish. Watch a TV show you recorded a month ago; read a novel that has been sitting by your bed for weeks.

2. Pessimism

Yes, this is a habit. Many people develop this thinking pattern from childhood, because their parents were negative thinkers. Others develop it because negative events have impacted them severely (e.g., loss of job, death of partner, divorce) and they have not worked through the negativity. Try some gratitude. Are you eating 3 meals a day? Are you dead? Do you have shoes on your feet? Do you have a good friend? Are you facing bombing raids daily because you live in Syria?

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3. Waiting For Something To Happen

“I’ll be happy when I find a different job,” “I’ll be happy when I can finally retire,” “I’ll be happy when…..” This condition of general discontent does not go away when those goals are met, because the person finds that the thing desired didn’t bring the happiness. It’s nice to have goals but if you fail to “live in the now,” you’ll never be happy.

4. Letting Others Control Your Decisions

This little habit means that you never got through the parent-child thing, with you being the child. You will not break this habit easily, but choose one small thing at a time. Make a decision to get that haircut even when others are saying you shouldn’t; enroll in a class; take a trip all by yourself. Get used to being independent and that habit will build.

Happiness Really is a Choice (and Some Habit Trashing)

5. Harboring Resentment Or Anger

Here’s what happens. Every time you think about the event, the circumstance or the person responsible for a painful experience, you experience it all over again with all of the same emotions. How horrible! Breaking this habit takes lots of practice. When the thought hits, you have to dispel it and replace it with something pleasant. You also have to genuinely forgive. It’s not like haven’t needed forgiveness at some time, right?

6. Looking For Temporary Happiness

You love that new car; you loved that expensive meal you just ate, even though you had to put it on your charge, which is almost maxed out. We all make impulsive decisions for temporary happiness, but when that is the only type of happiness we pursue, we will never be happy. Looking at the long-term has to be a new habit. What does permanent happiness mean to you? Go after those things!

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7. Setting Goals That Are Too Big/Challenging

They don’t get achieved and then you are unhappy. So you set another one just like that one! Set smaller, shorter-term goals that are challenging but achievable. Then pat yourself on the back and get some of that happiness!

Happiness Really is a Choice (and Some Habit Trashing)

8. Failure To Stretch Your Mind

If you are not learning new things; if you are not having new experiences, then you are stuck in place. This is an unhappy place to be, for you have nothing to look forward to. Get out there and do something!

9. Letting Someone Stay In Your Life Who Hurts You

It’s a tough decision to walk away from a partner, a friend, or a relative who criticizes, belittles, or worse, physically abuses you. It has become such a natural part of your life that you just live with it. The relief and happiness you gain once you do walk away, however, will be amazing.

10. Being In A Rush All Of The Time

Yes, there are deadlines; yes, there are times when life is hectic and harried. If this is your life all of the time, it is of your own making. Reduce obligations, let others fend for themselves – just back away!

11. Saying “Yes” When You Don’t Want To

It’s a hard habit to break. You want to please everyone; you want people to say they can count on you. Enough! If you can just force yourself to say “no” that first time, it does get easier with each subsequent “no.”

12. Being Rigid And Inflexible

Life comes with surprises. If your rigidity does not allow you to accept those surprises and those changes, you will be miserable. Start with the little things and build up. If your schedule says you must get up at 8 every Saturday morning, get dressed and immediately begin the yard work or some other chore, sleep in. Skip the yard work. The sun will not fall out of the sky.

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Happiness Really is a Choice (and Some Habit Trashing)

13. Being Stingy

Remember Scrooge? He was unhappy. There is something inside all of us that grows warm and fuzzy when we do for others. You can be stingy with money or time, but, in either case, you won’t be happy if you are.

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