Most of us want to be happy, right? Of course, life has its share of unfortunate circumstances and sad moments, but you mostly crave joy and happiness as you go about your day. Why, then, do you often feel unhappy or have a nagging feeling that doom and gloom are at your heels—even when things are going well for you?
Experts say there are several reasons you might be unable to experience the happiness you deserve. And guess what? The common thread that’s likely holding you back is… you. Here are eight ways you might be getting in the way of your own happiness.
If you’re constantly trying to mimic the habits of a friend you admire or wearing a style you see in fashion magazines but secretly can’t stand, then you’re not being your authentic self. It’s emotionally draining to constantly take on the behaviors and styles of others, when what you’re really doing is stifling the real you. Author Gretchen Rubin (who spearheaded The Happiness Project) says this is the most instrumental part of reclaiming your happiness. She suggests stepping away from the people and activities you think you should enjoy. Instead, let your inner voice drive your decisions.
Still clinging to that rude comment said to you two years ago? Think that look from a stranger “meant” something bad? Lighten up! Rubin is big on letting go of things that are really not an issue; holding on to every stare, comment and interpreted behavior can be a downer and end up sabotaging your happiness.
We’ve all been burned by others, whether it by a friend we trusted or a colleague that stole an idea and ran with it. However, it’s important to not anticipate that every friend will therefore turn on you or that every work situation will end up destroying your professional aspirations. Do your best to let positive thoughts enter your mind instead of automatically thinking that every meeting, phone call or visit from a family member stall your happiness.
While the word “mantra” may conjure up images of people doing yoga or sitting in therapy sessions, that’s not always the case. Many people turn to mantras—comforting words or phrases—to help them achieve personal goals or change behaviors. Think of a phrase that’s uplifting, and turn to it every time you feel negative thoughts getting in the way of happier ones. “I deserve to be happy” or “good things are coming my way” are a couple of examples.
If you’re always thinking that happiness and massive life events go hand-in-hand, you could be cutting your happiness short. Sure, a new car or a promotion are smile-worthy occasions, but if you always expect feel-good vibes to come from such grand happenings then you won’t be as happy as you deserve to be. Don’t rely on dream vacations and fancy jewelry to keep your happiness meter pegged. Find beauty in a flower that’s still blooming in cold temperatures, feel happy when you overhear a baby giggling, and allow yourself to feel good about enjoying a perfectly-made cup of coffee. Joy is often in the little things more than the big.
Not everyone does things precisely the way you do, but that’s all right. Unless it’s something so terribly wrong or inappropriate that you must involve yourself, try to stand back and let others go about their business. Even if they set the table the “wrong” way or don’t pronounce a word properly, fight the urge to correct them. You’ll find that when you don’t constantly involve yourself, you’ll feel more inner peace and happiness.
Your physical health is certainly related to your mental health, so ditching that yearly physical or ignoring a bothersome symptom may end up thwarting your happiness. It just may be that an interaction between medications is interfering with your mood or that some ailment is triggering neurological changes. Keep your health in check by visiting your doctor and—of course—doing your best to eat right and exercise regularly.
Finally, if you’re burning the candle at both ends more often than not, consider changing your habits. Proper amounts of sleep—and no, 4 or 5 hours don’t do the Yin Yoga—is essential for your happiness. Experts have found that sleep plays a role in happiness; when you’re sleep deprived, the part of the brain responsible for processing positive and negative memories is altered. Without a healthy amount of sleep under your belt, you’re more apt to recall negative memories and barely able to remember positive ones.
If you see yourself in some of these example cases, take steps to make changes. Even small adaptations can make a big difference to your overall well-being.