When it comes to happiness, it's easy to think that one day eternal bliss will just fall into our laps. However, a lot of our contentment comes from our attitudes and the habits we indulge in, so we have to be wary to avoid the many ways we could be thwarting our own happiness. Once we realize that we have a good degree of control over how we feel, we can work to ditch these habits and instead instill better ones that can have us on the road to positive emotions.
"Happiness is, in part, dependent on our genes," says Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. over email. "Some people are born with a greater balance of dopamine, serotonin, etc. It’s also dependent on our role models for happiness growing up and how we were treated. But there are people who believe they’re living under a dark cloud, and they never have considered that they may be causing their own unhappiness by their thoughts and actions."
Although your life circumstances certainly play a role in your happiness levels, how you adapt to them matters as well, and shifting your mindset can help bring you some inner peace. If you're looking to feel more positive about life, consider these 11 ways you may be sabotaging your own happiness.
1. You Have High Expectations
"People are not satisfied when things don't meet their expectations," says Nakya Reeves, LMFT over email. "They may go into a relationship with preconceived notions about gender roles, and when the relationship isn't these things to a 't,' they are unhappy, rather than looking at what positives they do have." One study from the University of College London found that people are happier not just when things are going well, but whether or not they are going better than expected.
2. You're Not Flexible
"Instead of being upset that things didn't happen according to plan or expectation, allowing yourself to be open-minded will help you to be able to see the positives of the situation — which can sometimes work better for your day, your career, or your relationship than your original plan," says Reeves.
3. You Look For Happiness In Money
Making a lot of money seems as if it would make life a lot easier, but science has found that's not the case. Research from Princeton University found that past a $75,000 a year salary, people don't get any happier when they make more money. They also found that 85 percent of Americans felt happy each day regardless of their income.
4. You Look For Happiness In Fame
If you're looking to validate your worth by reaching fame or notoriety, you might want to think again. A study from the Journal of Research and Personality found that people who aspired for goals related to fame and image had more negative psychological health.
5. You Expect To Always Be In A Good Mood
"We sabotage our happiness by expecting to be happy all the time rather than knowing that this is impossible," says Koenig. "Instead, we must accept all sorts of feelings states, knowing happiness will return at some point — and disappear again."
6. You Constantly Crave Control
We can't control everything, and that can cause a lot of stress for people. However, letting go of this need to control can have beneficial effects. Studies show that being overly controlling of other people and outcomes is linked to more negative emotions and poorer psychological wellbeing, according to the journal Psychology of Well-Being: Theory, Research and Practice.
7. You Want To Be Better Than Others
There's nothing wrong with striving to be your best self, but if you only care about being better than others, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness. Studies show that the tendency to judge one's self in comparison to others, especially when it comes to measures of status such as attractiveness and wealth, is linked to negative feelings and unhappiness.
8. You Blame Your Genes
"Our behavior makes a big difference," says Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D. over email. "Perhaps half of our happiness comes from genes, but the other half comes from our circumstances and from our own habits. Plus, we now know from the research into gene expression that we can moderate our genetic programming. People who meditate end up epigenetically reducing their stress hormone output when things are rough. So that meditation ends up changing our genetic structure."
9. You're Living In Fear
"Fear of the unknown and 'what could be' keeps many from living their best life," says Eliza M Belle, PhD, over email. "The fear of failure, disappointment, getting hurt, and making mistakes is often so powerful, it can keep people living in the realm of mediocre, or what is also called the 'comfort zone.' Comfort does not always equal contentment."
10. You're Desperate For Love
Everyone deserves to feel loved, but if you're desperate for a relationship, it can have some negative effects on your mood state. A study published in the journal Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences found that an extreme desire for love can lead to neediness or avoidance in relationships.
11. You See Happiness As A Destination
"Happiness is not a destination where when we get there, we can kick back and relax," says Koenig. "Yes, we want to enjoy happiness. But people who are happy a good deal know that it takes effort to create happiness."
Putting in an effort to ditch these habits or negative ways of thinking can help bring more happiness into your life.
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