It’s 2019 — our feeds are full of inspiring quotes, self-help books are all the rage, self-care is the it-word of the decade, and we’re all on the constant quest for happiness, calmness, and confidence… but do we even know where to start? At the end of the day, you can’t really show contentment on an Instagram story, and skincare only goes skin-deep. Happiness is not one-size-fits-all, and it’s not going to happen just because you’re doing everything you’re supposed to.
Being happy comes from more than just the obvious things like doing good deeds, being healthy, and following your dreams. Sometimes, the everyday, normal things in your life could be sabotaging your ability to be really really happy. Here are eight seemingly positive things that could be making you unhappy:
1. Following all of your friends on social media
Connecting with your friends makes you happy, right!? Wrong! (Well, to some degree). Social media is great for building each other up, connecting with others, and forming a community. However, most people use it as a tool to post the best version of their lives. As an avid Instagrammer, absolutely #nojudgment here — I love a good #OOTD or #TBT as much as the next girl. But I also don’t want to spend time every day scrolling through other people’s lives when I could be living my own. I found it was not only wasting my time, but subconsciously making me feel like my life was lesser-than — like a constant feeling of FOMO.
So here’s my secret tip for you: mute the stories from every Instagram account that doesn’t inspire or empower you. I now scroll through Instagram and only see my favorite inspiration accounts or tips from women whose careers I admire — everything social media should be used for, but often isn’t. If something you do every day (like checking social media) is not bringing you happiness, then change it.
2. Being extremely goal-oriented
I’m the last person to ever say having goals and plans are a bad thing, and to be clear, that is not what I’m saying. In fact, having goals can make you feel excited, and putting in the steps to achieve them can make you feel empowered — two important factors in happiness. But when you’re so goal-oriented, it’s easy to get into the habit of thinking, I’ll be happy when I reach that goal. Happiness is not something that happens to you — it’s a skill. If you’re not happy where you are at now, you won’t be happy no matter where you are in the future.
3. Spending a lot of time and money on “self-care”
Let’s get one thing straight — “self-care” means anything you do that cares for your self. Literally, that’s all. It does not inherently mean a rigorous skincare routine and gym membership. If health and wellness make you feel content and cared for, then by all means indulge on the regular — set aside a budget to make it work (whether it’s a new sheet mask from CVS once a week or a facial every month), take a bath, put on essential oils, make yourself a matcha latte — you go, girl! But if all the new wellness trends just leave you feeling stressed, DO NOT DO THEM. Read a book, play with your dog, hang out with your sister, or cook a fancy meal for yourself. Make time for self-care every single day, whatever self-care means to you.
4. Having a strict budget because “money can’t buy happiness,” so who cares anyways, right?
Just to preface, financial unwellness is one of the main causes of unhappiness — too much spending, a growing debt, or not having a handle on your finances results in severe stress. Work on your financial wellness — pay your bills on time, and if you haven’t already, start an emergency fund or savings account. If you’re already financially stable and have a budget you can stick to, it’s time to figure out how you can reevaluate your money to help your happiness.
Spend your money to save you time (Ubering instead of driving, so you can answer emails) or save you from the chore you hate doing most (like using a laundry service). Also cut down on new shoes or Starbucks runs and save your money for an experience like a concert or trip. Experiences bring more happiness than things, or yes, even that daily double soy latte (I promise).
5. Avoiding situations that make you anxious
No one wants to trigger emotions that make them feel anxious, stressed, or uncomfortable. Have you ever declined a party that you knew would be fun because you didn’t know enough people going and felt uncomfortable, or a date you were nervous to go on? What about saying no to things that you secretly want to try but you know would make you anxious, like that tall roller coaster or a pottery class when you’ve never been good at art?
You might be avoiding certain situations in order to limit your anxiety and stress, but avoiding anything just causes anxiety to grow overtime. Confront your anxieties head on — have that tough talk with the friend you’ve been avoiding, go on the roller coaster, show up to the party. There’s a lot of truth in the saying, “do one thing every day that scares you,” especially when that one thing is overcoming your anxiety.
6. Having a lot of free time
While it might seem like not overpacking your schedule for more chill time makes you calmer and happier, having too much free time can actually leave you bored, unhappy, or even stressed. Think about it: there are 168 hours in a week. If you’re working a 9-5 job, you spend 40 of those hours at work. If you get the recommended eight hours of sleep a night, that’s 56 of those hours. That means you have 72 hours of free time a week (more than you thought, right?)! How do you spend those hours? If you get home from work and plop down on the couch until bedtime every day, how many hours are you actually spending on mindless “free time?”
What would you want to spend those hours doing instead? Training for a marathon? Working on a side hustle? Painting? That 72 hours is yours — be wise about how you spend it. Plus, if you’re mindful about achieving your goals in your afterwork hours, spending Sunday morning doing absolutely nothing will feel blissful and relaxing, not boring.
7. Deflecting compliments
When a coworker says, “Great job on the presentation today!” do you say, “Oh, I couldn’t have done it without Sarah!” even though you worked on it all weekend while Sarah was in Michigan with her family? What about when a friend says, “Your hair looks so good!” Do you respond with, “No, I have the worst hair!” It may seem like deflecting a compliment comes off as humble, but it just comes off as insecure, and even borderline annoying. More importantly for your happiness, you should be believing every compliment you receive, because you should be proud of your accomplishments and secure in yourself.
If you don’t believe compliments, rewire your mind with the way you respond. Say, “Thank you so much for your support! I was really excited to present our findings,” or “Thank you! Your hair looks great, too, I love how you styled it today.” Respond to every compliment with building someone up, whether it’s building up yourself or giving out another compliment in return instead of minimizing your worth. You’ll not only come off as more likable, but one day, you’ll start to believe it.
8. Taking life too seriously
Okay, so there’s a time and place for everything — when you’re going into a meeting with your boss or it’s time to do your taxes, maybe it’s best you take it seriously. But we’re trained enough to be serious, to put in a lot of effort in work, to blend in in public, to you know, be good at #adulting. But weren’t you the happiest when you were a little kid? That’s because you were more enthusiastic, more playful, and more silly. Unlearn some of the traits you’ve learned to be an adult, and give yourself the opportunity to be more silly — play a sports game, wear bright colors, eat mac n’ cheese with ketchup (is that gross now?). Do more things because you want to, not because you’re supposed to. Be silly, make life fun, and bring back your childlike enthusiasm.