Happiness: everyone is looking for it, yet too many never fully grasp it. In fact, today Americans are less happy than they were just 15 years ago. According to a study by Anderson Robbins Research and Shaw & Company Research, 47% of Americans say they’re unhappy. Even more alarming, anti-depressant prescription use is up 400% in the last decade. Topping the list of the most unhappy city is our very own, New York City. The place where “dreams are made of,” but it turns out, successful or not, happiness is not happening for millions of people who thought they were doing everything that would lead them to fulfillment.
There are many factors as to why America and many other countries are unhappy. A slumping economy and poverty certainly contributes quite a bit to unhappiness, but it’s also found that poor, less developed countries where people lead simple lives, are actually more happy than the over-worked, material-driven first-world nations. So, what gives? To advance, we need hard-working developed countries, but at what cost? It’s a tough balancing act, but here a few things we need to stop doing, so we can transcend and get a slice of that genuine happiness.
Making a Proverbial Life List
Living according to a list you made is not only restrictive to self-growth, it also puts a damper on your happiness. While it’s obviously a great habit to set goals, taking those checklists too far can make you pretty miserable. Here’s the thing, none of us can tell the future. And here’s an even more uncomfortable thought, we can’t always control what happens around us. So, if you had planned to make six figures by 28, marry a 6’1″ prince charming, and move into a 3 story mansion with exactly 2.5 kids by age 30, and none of that happened, you’re setting yourself up for some serious self-loathing.
Perhaps you got that six figure income, but in the process you did not find that prince charming or the mansion or the kids, and you know what, it’s OK. Life tends to throw many curve balls and you can’t always control exactly when things happen to you. So, instead of freaking out over your check list, relax, live a bit more in the present and stay patient. You might find you enjoy the mystery and learn a lot more about yourself by letting your life flow.
Placing Your Happiness in External Factors
This goes along with the proverbial checklist discussed above. And here’s the real kicker: you could get ALL the things on your checklist and STILL be unhappy. There is no guarantee that once you get that perfect wedding, house, marriage, job, kid etc. that you will be happy, because happiness comes from within. Stop placing your happiness in external factors and start focusing on gratitude and enjoying everything you do have. The biggest tragedy in life is that we’re conditioned to look outside ourselves to find happiness -through consumerism, occupation, money, marriage, when none of these things can bring us happiness if we’re not first happy within ourselves.
Worrying What People Think About You
This is so much easier said than done, but the more confident and mature you are, the easier it is to let go of negative opinions. In case you didn’t know, there is no such thing as pleasing everyone. Someone, somewhere is probably always going to have a problem with you in one way or another. The key is not letting it get to you. Instead of worrying about what one, two, or a few people think about you, focus on all the people who love and appreciate you. We humans have tendency to forget all the good things people say and focus on one insult, which can haunt us for years. You have to let go and realize: you simply can’t please everyone. NO ONE can and that’s quite alright.
Body-shaming is so very toxic and so subtly applied. From shaming celebrities to whispering about how so-and-so looks “huge” after her baby -it’s just ridiculous. It’s so sad that women are taught from early-on to criticize not just their own bodies, but everyone else’s. We are enthusiastic advocates of exercise and healthy living, but under no circumstances is it ever ok to put others down for their weight or appearance. If we want to be happy, we have to stop hating our bodies and the bodies of others.
Humans are naturally judgmental. In fact, it’s so prevalent in our DNA, we have to wholly unlearn being judgmental to become enlightened individuals. It’s a conscious effort to stop judging others for everything, but once we do, we become kinder and more peaceful. We’re not talking about healthy judgment, like sensing someone following behind you on a dark street may be a threat. We’re talking about judging someone for having a different cultural background, religion, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status etc. Open your eyes and heart to understanding others. You may find the world looks a lot more beautiful when you’re coming from a non-judgmental place.
Not Taking Care of Yourself
Neglecting your health and spiritual/emotional well-being will undoubtedly lead to unhappiness. Think of your entire body and mind as a finely tuned machine. In order for everything to work properly, all parts have to be taken care of. This means eating healthy, getting exercise, getting enough sleep, taking time to de-stress and generally being kind to your body and mind. Don’t neglect yourself -you’re worth the time and extra special attention.
This rounds out all the previous points. Happiness is 100% tied to your self-worth and opinion of yourself. At the end of the day, if you’re putting yourself down internally about any of the above points, no matter how well you’ve done or how successful you are, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness. It may sound cliche, but you have to love yourself first. And if you don’t yet, you have to find a way to, because without self-love, effort becomes futile and nothing else in the world is going to make you happy.