I want to be happy, it’s one of my ultimate goals in life, but yet I felt like nothing makes me feel happy anymore.
Not too long ago when something would not go the way I wanted to, I would grab my phone and start roaming through different apps to calm myself down. I would actually do it to isolate myself or, perhaps I should say, to connect to the world I had complete control over.
I am sure most of you did or still do the same.
Today there is an ongoing debate whether the internet world is fake or whether it has already become the only real world of our days.
No matter what it is, I always used it as an excuse when I did not like something. It was like an off button which helped me turn off the world around and find refuge in the world I had created.
It was my world where changing moods was a filter away, where smileys replaced thousands of feelings, and where I could delete and block people I did not want to see as if they don’t exist.
Little did I know at that time that what I was doing was a toxic habit that only hurt me (although at that time I thought it was my only savior).
So What is a Habit?
The American Journal of Psychology defines a habit as “a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through the previous repetition of a mental experience.”
We are all creatures of habit and we create routines to give our lives purpose and meaning. But the problem with this is that some of our habits can be toxic without us realizing it.
Let’s get back to my addiction to my phone and social media.
Today, we are surrounded by tons of information continuously brainwashing us that we will be happier if we had more of this or that. That’s what actually happened to me.
Why can’t I be happy? sadly because I would always chase illusions that did not exist and that would eventually leave me feeling disillusioned with my own life. The worst thing about this is that it had become my reality, and nothing in my life pleased me. But this is just one example of how a toxic habit can disconnect you from the real world and leave you ungrateful for what you have.
Habits are part of our hardwired behavior. This explains why it is hard to shake them off, but fortunately, it is not impossible. If habits are required through the previous repetition of a mental experience then it is possible to get rid of the exact same habits by repeating the mental exercise against them.
Understanding this became the turning point in my life and make me realized why am I not happy with myself. I started to identify all the malicious habits I had that blocked me in my life without me even realizing it.
That is the tricky part of toxic habits. Our brain is so used to them that we do not even have the slightest idea of how much they can hurt us. But understanding this and getting rid of those toxic habits helped me advance in life in the ways I hadn’t imagined I could.
So, to those who are going through what I went through, don’t worry, because you’re not alone. By sharing my personal experiences, my hope is that it will help you question your choices and be conscious of the habits that hinder your happiness.
So what were my toxic habits and how I managed to break them?
1. Comparing Myself to Others
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” – Steven Furtick
It is actually true. We usually compare ourselves with others when something doesn’t go right. We immediately start to see our drawbacks and compare ourselves to how successful the others are, even if being successful is what they show to be and not what they really are.
That’s exactly what I did – feeling bad when others would do better than me or building myself up when others would fail.
But comparing, in general, is wrong because there will always be someone ahead of you as well as someone doing worse than you. Comparing yourself to others becomes self-destructive because it does not bring any value. If you compare yourself to others, you will have no time to care about yourself and your true happiness.
So when you feel good about something you have done, enjoy it — you don’t need the credit from others to confirm your accomplishments. And when you feel down, cheer yourself up and take it as a lesson you will not repeat next time. Remember that your achievements and failures only belong to you.
Quick Tip #1
As research shows, people are much more likely to display positive emotions than negative ones. So next time you start to compare yourself to somebody else remember that your perception of others is likely to be erroneous.
So take your time to concentrate on yourself and your happiness. Make it a priority.
2. Negative Self-talk and Putting Myself Down
Do you think more about negative outcomes rather than positive ones? Or preparing yourself for failure even if everything goes smoothly? Or blaming yourself for any possible letdown?
If the answer is yes to at least one of these questions, then you are probably practicing negative-thinking.
I just want to be happy, period! But I had no clue I was stuck in negativity until I realized that I had positive thoughts once in a blue moon. It pretty much clouded my judgment, pushed a lot of people away, and most importantly, neutralized all the positivity one should experience in life.
Who really wants to stay around somebody who is negative all the time? I guess no one.
But one cannot get rid of this toxic habit until they actually admit to themselves that it is vicious. Luckily, there is a way out.
The first thing that helped me free myself from negative thoughts was meditation. I spent 20 minutes every morning to meditate. Apparently, our brain is so full of different thoughts that it picks the negative ones because they prove to be the easiest to retain (it is the so-called ‘negativity bias’). So in order for my mind to have room for positivity, I needed to get rid of negative thoughts if I want to be happy.
The second thing I did was to admit to myself that I was worth positivity. What helped me do so was embracing my strengths and leveraging what I was good at. Studies have shown that when people embrace their top character traits they become more self-confident, have higher self-esteem and are usually happier and more satisfied with life.
When I did so, positive thinking became natural. When we know what we are good at, we believe in more opportunities. And even if we fail at something we have confidence that it is for a good reason and that it will only make us stronger.
Quick tip #2
For positive thinking to work, every time you identify negative thoughts try to use positive affirmations and positive visualization. Instead of saying, “I am a total loser”, try, “I will do better next time.” Imagining a good outcome helps us comprehend that it is more than achievable.
So focus your thoughts on good things that can happen, and make a conscious decision not to worry.
3. Spending Time With Toxic People and on Useless Things
Do you have that one friend who always pulls you down instead of encouraging you? Or that toxic co-worker who drives you crazy every time you work on a mutual project? Well, it is probably time to rethink the way you let them influence your life.
“Don’t walk away from negative people – run!” – Mark Twain
People around us have a direct impact on our happiness. And life is too short to be spent with people who affect our lives negatively or keep us away from success. In fact, it has been proven that even sitting in the proximity of toxic people in the office can affect our success and happiness. So it is probably time to choose people we interact with.
Sometimes when I felt sad or angry I would not understand the reason why I felt so because nothing particular had happened. But now when I look back, I realize that I would hang out a lot with people who consciously or unconsciously dragged me down.
When I became aware of their impact, I slowly started to let go of people who did not support me or did not accept me the way I was. Instead, I began to spend more time with my family and friends who appreciated me and lifted me up. I know that if I want to be happy permanently, this is the way to go.
These were the people who were worth my time, my energy, and my love. It actually boosted my motivation and I started to feel happier and more energized.
The same ‘elimination’ happened with my toxic addiction to my phone. I would spend hours scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed or watching Instagram stories of strangers until I realized that I was only wasting my time.
We all need distraction but when it hurts our productivity and brings no value but frustration and fatigue, it should be removed from our routine. In my case, my distraction turned into a source of stress that was useless.
So I made a list of all other distractions that got into my way and asked myself why I allowed those things to distract me. I had no serious answer to most of my questions. And it made me become aware of all the precious time I could spend on myself instead of uncountable inadequate things I was doing.
At first, it was a little bit hard to get rid of all those small distractions. But when I analyzed them, it actually helped me become mindful of the way I behaved and used my time. So letting go of them became necessary.
Quick tip #3
You might be afraid of letting go of people and useless things fearing to stay alone and bored. But when you rid yourself of toxic habits and relationships you make way for better things and people to come.
So do not be afraid of letting some things go. Surround yourself with positive people and events. It will only encourage you to embrace more happiness.
4. Waiting for Something to Happen
Why can’t I be happy? Simply because I always used to find excuses for not doing what I actually wanted to do – start traveling and discovering new cultures. My studies, different events, my family and friends always served as an excuse not to travel. My list of reasons was countless.
It was not until I got serious health issues that I faced my biggest fear – change.
I understood that life is too short to sit around and wait for something to happen. I know it is a cliché thing to say but it really is like that.
It is natural to be afraid of change. But most of the times change is only scary in our minds. In fact, change is inevitable but we can influence it with our everyday choices and decisions.
“You are the driver of your own destiny.”
I have this phrase written on my bedroom wall to remind me that I am capable of doing whatever I want, and that life is too short to wait for somebody or something to happen.
My life started to change only when I faced my fear and I changed my attitude. Before, I would blame life for being uninteresting and for always being black-and-white. But it was only my choice to see it like that. So when I chose to paint my life in different colors, it started to change and blossom.
Quick tip #4
Next time you want to do something, just do it. Waiting for something to happen can be forever and can result in wasting your life. Take 10 minutes every week to think through one thing you would like to do during that week and brainstorm ideas as to how you can do it.
You will see that it is actually very easy to get things done. You just need to get started.
I Want to be Happy and I am!
We all have habits. Some of them are good, some of them are bad.
The most important thing is to realize that our habits are under our control. So take some time to be honest with yourself and evaluate all the toxic habits you have got. Remember that they are a result of repetitive mental activity.
So come up with an action plan to turn those negative habits into positive habits and start practicing them every day. You will gradually see how you can easily advance in life without those toxic habits.