In our quest for happiness, we often focus on what can bring us joy rather than what could potentially detract from it. Even though it's good to fill your life up with positivity, you may also want to consider the surprising things to give up that can help you be happy. And this doesn't just mean getting rid of some junk around the house or ditching smoking— giving up some less than ideal mindsets can help out a lot as well.
"Growing up, we are not taught how to be happy, yet it’s the major thing people search for," says psychologist Anita Marchesani, Ph.D. over email. "We look to society to tell us what we 'need to do' to achieve happiness. The problem is that most of what the external world tells us to do and achieve is misguided and blatantly wrong."
Achieving the mental state we want can take a little bit of work, and you might have to let go of some die-hard habits or preconceived notions. If you feel like your life might need a little spring cleaning, here are 11 things to give up if you want to be happy — it might not come easy, but it's worth a shot!
1. The Notion That You'll Always Have Positive Emotions
Happiness doesn't mean feeling ecstatic 24/7. "Happiness is overall life contentment," says Marchesani. "It does not mean that you never or rarely feel sad, disappointed, rejected, bored, or angry. Trying to avoid negative emotions does not automatically make you joyful, nor does it add to your overall life satisfaction."
2. Relying On Social Media For Happiness
Sure, it feels good to get a like on your Instagram photo, but that kind of pleasure is fleeting, and overall, using too much social media can actually have a negative impact on your wellbeing. One study from the journal Depression and Anxiety found that the more time young adults use social media, the more likely they are to be depressed. Websites like Facebook can easily incite feelings of envy, instigate negative interactions, and even create a feeling of "time wasted," which can lead to a negative mood.
3. Comparing Yourselves To Others
"If there's one thing you could give up now that I guarantee would make you happier, it would be comparing yourself to others," says positive psychology expert Pax Tandon over email. Research from the Journal of Adult Development shows that people who make frequent social comparisons experience more destructive emotions and behaviors.
4. Those Persistent Toxic Friends
This one's hard, but it's time to spend less time around toxic people, even if they're your family or "close friends." "If the people around you bring you down, make you feel unhappy, negative, or bad about yourself, remove yourself from their company," says Tandon. "Those you spend the most time with are those you become the most like.
5. High Expectations
It sounds like it would be a good idea to shoot for the moon, but it turns out, you don't want to shoot too high. Research shows that having realistic expectations is important: Starting off with lower expectations leaves you more pleasantly surprised, especially since day-to-day wellbeing does not reflect how well things are going, but whether things are going better than expected, according to a study from the University College London.
6. All Those Grudges
"Sacrifice your right to hold a grudge or feel offended," says Marchesani. "Holding back on forgiveness, or allowing someone else’s behavior to trigger you, is a surefire way to create unnecessary relationship conflict. Instead, push into healing and deepening valuable connections with other people."
7. Spending Too Much Time On Your Cell Phone
"Stop relying on texting, messaging, or Snapchatting as a way of maintaining relationships," says Marchesani. "Put your mobile phones down, and truly connect with other people. Nurture your relationships by spending time with important people doing fun things together. "
8. Needing To Document Everything
There's nothing wrong with wanting to have some photographical evidence of something happening, but if you try to document too much, it can take away from the experience. Research from Fairfield University found that taking too many photos can spoil your memory of important events.
9. Indifference Toward Eating Healthy Foods
It might not seem like it, but what you eat can have an affect on your mental health. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that diets rich in refined grains and added sugar are associated with greater odds of depression. On the flip side, the same study showed that foods high in fiber, whole grains, whole fruits, and vegetables can have protective effects against developing depression.
10. Buying Material Objects To Make Yourself Happy
It's definitely nice to have good quality items, but if you're spending all your money on expensive items believing they'll make you happy, think again. Research from Cornell University shows that people who spend money on experiences are more happier than those who spend it on possessions. The satisfaction of an experience lasts much longer than the satisfaction from a purchase, the study found.
11. Bad Posture
Slouching sounds innocent enough, but sitting up straight can do more than just fix your appearance. A study published in the journal Health Psychology found that sitting up straight helps you feel more enthusiastic, excited, and strong, while slumping causes you to be more fearful, hostile, nervous, quiet, still, passive, dull, sleepy, and sluggish.
There's no one thing holding you back from happiness, but the more you ditch those unhealthy habits, the closer you'll be to feeling as good as you possibly can.
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