We all want to be happy, right? As humans, we constantly seek the next big thing… a big bonus, a promotion, or a new person in our life who will make us happier. When happiness is seen as somewhere off in the future, it’s always out of your grasp.
While chasing the elusive goal of being happy, we often engage in habits that give us just the opposite. We indulge in destructive mental habits which can sabotage even the best external events, achievements and relationships in our lives. The important component, however, is that happiness doesn’t come from an external factor – it comes from within. Happiness comes from our thoughts and how we look at the world… it has very little to do with the world itself.
Here Are Some Psychological Pitfalls We Need To Avoid:
Using Emotions As Indicators To Take Action: Emotional reasoning is a cognitive process by which an individual concludes that their emotional reaction proves something is true, despite contrary empirical evidence. It’s tempting to follow our feelings because they’re so strong and they seem persuasive and convincing. But here’s the thing about feelings: the strength of feeling is a poor indicator of its truth or its usefulness. Eg., you feel lazy, so you decide you need to stay indoors and rest instead of exercising or hanging out with friends, as promised. Relying solely on our feelings in these instances can add to our distress and create problems for us and others. It can create feelings of anxiety, fear, and apprehension in existing stressful situations, and as such, is often associated with or triggered by panic disorder or anxiety disorder.
Having Unrealistic Expectations: Expectations are an assumption about how things should be. In many instances, it adds a layer of unsaid compulsion. Eg. You expect your boss to be compassionate and constructive in your performance review. Psychologically, expectations are a form of ‘wish fulfilment’ – briefly satisfying a desire through an unconscious or habitual thought process. Expectations feel good because they portray an illusion of certainty. But the world is far from certain. And the people in it, even less so. In the long-run, unrealistic expectations do more harm than good.
Indulging In Negative Self-Talk: Whether you realize it or not, you’re constantly talking to yourself. You’re narrating the events of your daily life, some of which are boring and ordinary (‘What type of vegetable should I get for dinner?’) and some of which are deeper and perhaps problematic. (‘He’s always so negative, I never should have married him’). But in addition to narrating the events in our lives, we also talk ourselves about us! We blame ourselves for not doing a task perfectly at work… We tell ourselves how bad we look in those new jeans… We worry about how we’ll handle the upcoming exam.
This inner speech about ourselves is called self-talk. We all have certain patterns or habits of self-talk. How you habitually talk to yourself determines how you habitually feel about yourself. Negative self-talk is any inner dialogue you have with yourself that may be limiting your ability to believe in yourself and your own abilities, and to reach your potential. It is any thought that diminishes your ability to make positive changes in your life or your confidence in yourself to do so. Focusing on these thoughts may lead to decreased motivation as well as greater feelings of helplessness.
Living In The Past: While our past plays an important role in our lives, dwelling on a negative instance from there influences your present and can impact your future, making you very unhappy over time. A toxic childhood, a bitter relationship, an irreparable financial loss, are all phases in your life that may have affected you. But should you let these instances dictate your present? Absolutely not! While you cannot change what’s lost or the things that have already happened, you sure have the choice to learn from the mistakes that you made and weave a future that’s more beautiful and fulfilling!
Worrying About What People Will Say: In society, it’s as important to stick to rules and regulations, as it is to listen to your heart and do what you think is right. Constantly worrying about the impression you might leave on others and dwelling on the fear of rejection, will only make you unhappy. There’s nothing you can do to prevent people from talking. It’s a way of life and at some point you too may have been a part of this culture. However, whether you wish to restrict yourself, limit your movements or regulate your behaviour on the basis of what people will say about you, is your choice. Being a people pleaser may win you some brownie points, but does it really satisfy your individuality is what you should be asking yourself.
Obsessing Over Things Beyond Your Control: In life, we often have to deal with circumstances which aren’t in your control. While you can amend your ways, resort to certain lifestyle changes, to bring about a change in your future, there are things that you cannot really do anything about. This is when you need to let it go. Thinking about what’s going to happen, how things are going to unfold, will only make you more anxious and stressed. You will fail to live your present and will miss out on the beautiful things that could actually bring happiness in your life.
Surrounding Yourself With Negative People: Friends, family, and others you spend time with can have a huge influence on your outlook on life. Avoid people with toxic negativity and surround yourself with positive people who motivate and inspire you.
Gossiping and Criticizing Others: Gossiping and criticizing can waste precious time and energy on things that aren’t really going to better you in any way. Focus on positive things that can help you grow mentally or widen your perspective.
Catastrophizing: This is when someone assumes the worst-case scenario or thinks things are much worse than they actually are. It’s when your mind twists information into an imagined scenario of everything that can go wrong. Also called catastrophic thinking, it’s a form of distorted thinking or cognitive distortion. Assuming the worst-case scenario in every situation can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety, leading to unhappiness. Eg.: ‘If I don’t pass the test, I’ll fail the class, I’ll never get into college, and I’ll never have a career and I will die a failure!’ Or ‘If my work isn’t flawless, I’ll never get a promotion, and be a failure at my job and be poor forever.’
By becoming aware of these habits and making a conscious effort to change them, you can cultivate a more positive mind-set and increase your overall happiness.
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