By Dr. Mercola
Virtually every parent wishes for their children to be happy, but as adults many of us find happiness to be elusive.
One recent Harris Poll found that, despite an ostensibly recovering economy, only one in three Americans said they're very happy,1 which means, of course, that two out of three are not.
Unlike concrete achievements such as graduating high school or college, getting a promotion at work, or even getting married, achieving happiness is much more abstract, and, contrary to popular belief, not based on such worldly accomplishments.
You may have material wealth, even power or fame, yet still be unhappy. Or you may have little more than the shoes on your feet yet overflow with joy, because happiness is a state of mind.
I recently reviewed 22 habits of happy people, and they are overwhelmingly positive changes that prompt you to work on yourself, first. If you want to be truly happy, you've got to look to yourself because true happiness comes from within.
Are You Guilty of These 7 Sins of Happiness?
Now we'll take a slightly different slant, which is identifying the seven 'sins of happiness,' which author Trent Hand compiled for Lifehack.2 That is, the seven habits or attitudes that make happiness very hard to come by. Hand explained:
"These 'sins' are so deadly that we often don't notice we are falling into their trap until we wake up one day and wonder why we are glaring at ourselves in the mirror."
1. Comparing Yourself to Others
This will either make you feel guilty for living more comfortably than others who are struggling, or make you feel inadequate compared to those who have more. As Mark Twain said:
"Comparison is the death of joy."
2. Talking About Your Dreams Instead of Going to Work on Them
Talking about your dreams is great, but only if you eventually follow through with them. Make a point to set short-term action steps that will help you achieve your long-term goals – and act on them.
3. Listening to People With Nothing Positive to Say
Spending time around consistently negative people will drain your energy and bring down your mood. It's generally nearly impossible to cheer a negative person up, so you're better off avoiding them as much as possible and surrounding yourself with positive people instead.
4. Focusing on the News
Watching the news is virtually guaranteed to bring you down and create feelings of helplessness and a lack of hope, as there's not much you can do to improve the problems you're seeing. Instead, focus on positive steps you can make in your local community, such as mentoring a child or delivering meals to the elderly.
5. Deciding Someone Else Needs to Change
Finding fault in others, and letting them know what they're doing wrong, is easy. Much more difficult is looking inward to see how you can improve yourself instead. The latter will pay off by leading to a better you, while trying to fix others will likely be futile and interfere with your relationships.
6. Thinking "Happiness" Is a Destination You Can Reach
If you think you'll be happy once you accomplish a certain goal (like getting married or paying off your house), this is a myth. You must learn to find happiness during the journey, on a daily basis, rather than waiting to somehow find happiness at the end.
7. Forgetting to Say "Thank You"
It's easy to take for granted all that you have to be thankful for – friends, family, loved ones, your health, your job… By focusing on all that you have to be grateful for (jot down whatever comes to mind on a notepad, for starters), you'll instantly feel happier.
Living in the Moment: Another Key to Being Happy
Groucho Marx may not be the first person who comes to mind for a philosophy by which to live your life, but his words come with a definite air of wisdom:
"I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it."3
How often your mind wanders is frequently a predictor of how happy you are. One study found, in fact, that the more often you take yourself out of the present moment, the less happy you are.4 The researchers concluded:
" … people are thinking about what is not happening almost as often as they are thinking about what is and… doing so typically makes them unhappy."
So… allow yourself to be immersed in whatever it is you're doing right now, and take time to really be in the present moment. Practice mindfulness and avoid replaying past negative events in your head or worrying about the future; just savor what's going on in your life now.
Center Your Life Around Doing What You Love: 12 Quick Tips
Life is too short to wait to be happy. It's very important to prioritize your life so that you have time each and every day – or at the very least several times a week – to do the things you love. More often than not, it's the small, simple things in life that bring the most joy, which is perfect because these are also the things that are oftentimes easy to fit in on a daily basis.
You know what makes you feel good, but here are some simple ideas for making your day a bit more joyful. And remember, when you're doing these things don't worry about tomorrow or what needs to get done when you're finished – allow yourself to fully enjoy the moment:
Take a walk in nature, notice the trees, the sky, the sounds Spend some time in the sun Get in a good workout Read (for pleasure!) Dance (even if it's by yourself or with your kids) Laugh Eat something fresh; savor each bite Commit a 'random act of kindness' Spend time with an animal… or a baby Cook, from scratch Create something Work in your garden