We all want to be happy. Yet state of happiness seems elusive to so many people. I know some folks that seem to have been born with the happiness gene. They take no tangible actions, that are apparent to others, yet they are always happy. They hold happiness in mind as a state of mind and expect happiness as a given in life. These people look at the rest of us as if we’re from another planet; wondering, “why, on Earth, are you not just happy with life and everything you have? Why do you worry so much? Why do you let other people derail your state of happiness? That just doesn’t make sense.” Their foundation of happiness is so internalized that it has become a part of their very make-up, way of waking and way of being in daily life. I love these types of people. They teach me so much.
For the rest of us who, for whatever reason, never built a foundation of happiness within ourselves early on in life or who struggle with happiness coming and going, rising and falling in daily life, we have to do some work. If we want consistent happiness to be our state of being or even if we want to achieve moments of happiness on a regular basis, then some reality-based self-assessment must occur.
Common Things That Prevent Our State of Happiness
The poet Rumi once said, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it”.
The same thing could be said of happiness. Instead of looking outwards for happiness, simply look within at all the ways you are preventing yourself from being happy in this very moment — and work on letting them go.
To get you started, here are common things that prevent our state of happiness.
1. Underestimating ourselves
Put simply, one who underestimates themselves believes that they’re not enough. Underestimating yourself is the antonym of overestimating yourself – a.k.a. having over-confidence.
Underestimate: “to estimate something to be smaller or less important than it is.” Synonyms: lowball, underappreciate, underrate, undervalue ~ Oxford University Press.
What are the effects of underestimating yourself?
A sense of worthlessness often accompanies the tendency to underestimate oneself. When people lose any sense of self-worth, they are at their most vulnerable. When a person reaches such depths, they often grow desperate to escape the negative and ruminating thoughts that seem to take over the mind.
For example, numerous studies link a low sense of self-worth with alcoholism. In a 283-person study published in the journal Addict Health, researchers found that low self-esteem correlates with poor choices and acts of self-harm, including addiction, prostitution, and theft.
Low self-worth brought about by underestimating oneself may make a person more prone to suicide. It is believed that the adverse emotions brought on by low self-esteem – including depressive symptoms and hopelessness – are primarily responsible for the increased risk of suicide.
Are you underestimating yourself?
First, let us distinguish between humility and modesty and underestimation. The former is a set of personality traits; these traits are generally labelled as positive. The latter is potentially damaging psychologically – and not to be welcomed.
Second, it is essential to fully acknowledge and understand that having pride in your abilities and hard work is not a bad thing. These attributes help to build confidence and strength in oneself. We all know that price – taken to excess – is not a positive. Fortunately, very few of us have this problem!
Lastly, it is entirely possible to subtly underestimate yourself. We discuss some of how we do so shortly. You may also underestimate the importance of specific activities and frames of mind – all of which allow you to be the best version of yourself.
2. Future Worry
Constant worrying, negative thinking, and always expecting the worst can take a toll on your physical health and losing state of mind. It can sap your emotional strength, leave you feeling restless and jumpy, cause insomnia, headaches, stomach problems, and muscle tension, and make it difficult to concentrate at work.
You may take your negative feelings out on the people closest to you, self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, or try to distract yourself by zoning out in front of screens. Chronic worrying can also be a major symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a common anxiety disorder that involves tension, nervousness, and a general feeling of unease that colors your whole life.
If you’re plagued by exaggerated worry and tension, there are steps you can take to turn off anxious thoughts. Chronic worrying is a mental habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more balanced, less fearful perspective.
Negative self-talk can affect us in some pretty damaging ways. One large-scale study found that rumination and self-blame over negative events were linked to an increased risk of mental health problems.
Focusing on negative thoughts may lead to decreased motivation, state of happiness as well as greater feelings of helplessness. This type of critical inner dialogue has even been linked to depression, so it’s something to fix.
Those who find themselves frequently engaging in negative self-talk tend to be more stressed. This is in large part because their reality is altered to create an experience where they can’t reach the goals they’ve set for themselves.
Negative self-talk can lead to a lowered ability to see opportunities, as well as a decreased tendency to capitalize on these opportunities. This means that the heightened sense of stress comes from both the perception and the changes in behaviour that come from it. Other consequences of negative self-talk can include:
The more you tell yourself you can’t do something, the more you believe it.
You begin to believe that “great” isn’t as good as “perfect,” and that perfection is attainable. In contrast, mere high achievers tend to do better than their perfectionistic counterparts because they are generally less stressed and are happy with a job well done. They don’t pick it apart and try to zero in on what could have been better.
Feelings of depression:
Some research has shown that negative self-talk can lead to an exacerbation of feelings of depression. If left unchecked, this could be quite damaging.
Whether the constant self-criticism makes you seem needy and insecure or you turn your negative self-talk into more general negative habits that bother others, a lack of communication and even a “playful” amount of criticism can take a toll.
One of the most obvious drawbacks of negative self-talk is that it’s not positive and affect your state of mind. This sounds simplistic, but research has shown that positive self-talk is a great predictor of success.
For example, one study on athletes compared four different types of self-talk (instructional, motivational, positive, and negative) and found that positive self-talk was the greatest predictor of success. People didn’t need to remind themselves how to do something as much as they needed to tell themselves that they are doing something great and that others notice it as well.
4. Comfort Zone
Without a doubt, there are convincing reasons to spend time in your comfort zone. However, breaking free of these constructs can also be enticing. The cons of staying in your comfort zone include:
If you stay in a comfort zone too long, it can make you complacent. If you don’t perform activities that somewhat scare or challenge you, you miss out on growth opportunities and slowly loses your state of happiness.
In physics, Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion dictates that “a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion … will remain in motion … unless acted upon by an outside force.” Translated to comfort zones: You can’t make progress by keeping still.
No risk, no reward
Perhaps it’s an overused phrase, but for good reason: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” If you don’t try something new, you won’t succeed at anything new. Big rewards come to those willing to take risks, even if they aren’t large ones.
Not learning new skills
If you only work on current strengths, you neglect the chance to develop new skills. In taking on risks, you work on new skills and spend time improving relative weaknesses.
Missing the opportunity to make your comfort zone bigger
One of the most compelling reasons to push outside of your usual boundaries is to stretch your comfort zone. When you take risks, embrace some discomfort and doubt, and succeed, you not only improve your overall skill set, but you boost your confidence. The more you try challenging activities, the more normal those tasks become, broadening your comfort zone to larger and larger dimensions.
To make the most of the comfort zones in your life, you must learn to balance time in and outside of them. For personal growth, it’s necessary to take risks and endure some ego discomfort; however, it’s also important to spend time healing and contemplating in the nurturing environs of your comfort zone. Being aware of your comfort zone boundaries is a great first step—and as time passes, you can expand that space to embrace more activities and experiences.
5. Problematic Ego
Every person on this earth has an ego, but there’s a common misconception when it comes to a person’s ego. The misconception many carry through their life in belief is that egos are always a bad thing. Now while a person’s ego can certainly be seen as a negative quality of their current existence, it can be the most important trait to pay attention to for us as individuals.
The illusion of superiority
Ego makes our state of mind feel superior to others. Can anyone become superior to any other person in every aspect of life? It is impossible. Everyone is unique. God or Nature does not create duplicates of anyone. So ideally the feeling of superiority should not arise. You might say, “I have more wealth or more qualifications than others.” But even that does not mean you are superior to others, because they may have more of something else that you do not have, but wish for. One way to reduce your ego is to accept your own uniqueness and also appreciate the uniqueness of others.
The need to dominate and control
Ego fights with other egos. As soon as you try to dominate or control others, the other person’s ego resists, revolts and reacts. As a result, the other tries to get back at you or sabotage your efforts at the first opportunity. If you give up your need to dominate and control others, your ego is out and the other’s ego has no one left to fight. Peace and happiness prevail.
Blocked rational thinking
Our ego often comes in the way of us accepting the reality of situations and looking at things rationally. When something that we don’t like happens, we resist it. If you keep your ego out of the picture and ask yourself two questions, you will be in a better situation.
Ego hurts your health
The ego makes you react angrily or think ill of someone or yourself. When that happens, it harms your health and wellbeing. Once thinking such thoughts becomes a habit, you suffer from chronic diseases, heart trouble and even cancer.
6. Holding Anger
Imagine a really angry person. Do you picture someone who is aggressive and hostile, quick to blow up or out of control? Many people do. So, you may be surprised to learn that most angry people hold in their anger. A study by the University of Massachusetts found as few as 10 per cent of angry people “act out” in an aggressive manner.
People who hold in angry feelings show it in other ways, such as being overly critical and cynical or feeling depressed and victimized. Being angry uses a lot of emotional and physical energy. Consequently, internalizing anger can have harmful effects, debilitating both physical and mental health and compromising personal and professional relationships. Ultimately it causes state of happiness blown in seconds.
Anger is one of many ways the body responds to stress. Stress can be caused by almost anything, such as job pressure, a fear of failing, chronic pain, memories of a traumatic event or relationship problems. Even minor irritants, such as traffic or waiting in line, can damage our state of happiness. When a person gets angry, the body reacts by increasing heart rate and blood pressure and releasing elevated amounts of certain hormones. Although the body can adjust to “normal” levels of stress, significant and accumulated stress can contribute to disease and eventual death.
Unexpressed—and expressed—anger impacts a person’s state of happiness as well. Studies have linked anger to loneliness, chronic anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sleep disorders, obsessive-compulsive behaviour and phobias. Anger’s harmful effects spill over into a person’s personal and professional lives, undermining a person’s capacity for emotional fulfilment and personal and professional achievement. In other words, anger can hold you back and keep you down.
Anger inhibits the development and maintenance of intimate relationships, often resulting in marital and occupational instability. Angry people frequently blow misunderstandings and minor grievances out of proportion and are more inclined to end relationships with people, even close friends, than work to resolve problems. Other people find their demeanour and mood unpleasant to be around. Consequently, angry people often alienate themselves from others—even their own families. Angry people have trouble being effective parents and spouses.
7. Getting Impatient
Impatience has its roots in frustration and diminishing state of happiness. It’s a feeling of rising stress that starts when you feel that your needs and wishes are being ignored. In a modern environment where we’re accustomed to instant communication and immediate access to data, it’s a growing problem. But recognizing the warning signs can help you to prevent impatience from taking hold.
Impatience complicates everything
Being impatient won’t benefit you in any way. The only thing it leads to is a sense of frustration and helplessness, seeing that you can’t do anything to improve the course of events. Additionally, these feelings will only put you in a bad mood. Impatience fuels impatience.
Impatience doesn’t allow you to enjoy the present
It’s important to enjoy every moment to the fullest. In this sense, impatience doesn’t allow you to live in the present, as you can’t avoid focusing all your attention on what’s coming next.
Being impatient clouds your vision
Most situations have both a positive and a negative side. For example, if you’re stuck in a traffic jam, you can use that time to listen to the radio, play music, or make a pending phone call. This will keep you distracted and help you avoid feeling as if you’re wasting time.
Reinforces negative emotions
Impatience will turn you into an anxious and stressed person who tends to always see the negative side of each situation. You have to bear in mind that your personality depends on your emotions. Being impatient will lead to a negative attitude and constant complaining.
Affects your emotional state
If you want to feel good about yourself, the best thing you can do is learn how to manage your emotions. Although you don’t have to eliminate impatience, you shouldn’t let it cloud your ability to think and make judgments.
Lead to obesity
Impatient people may be more prone to obesity because they’re used to spending less time eating. They tend to eat more compulsively and less orderly, consuming more food in less time.
High blood pressure
Impatient people are at a higher risk of suffering from hypertension. This may be due to their high-stress levels that are heightened by how overwhelmed and helpless they feel due to their impatient and anxious nature.
Finally, impatience can also speed up the ageing process. Similar to the risk of hypertension, impatience-related stress can cause premature ageing.
8. Fear of making mistake
We all have days when nothing we do feels good enough. For most people, this feeling passes and doesn’t necessarily impact daily living. But for others, a fear of imperfection turns into a debilitating phobia called atelophobia that intrudes on every part of their life.
The fear of failure may affect people in a variety of ways, which means that it’s not always easy to identify. It first shake your state of happiness and some of the ways that people may experience the fear of failure include:
- Believing that you don’t have the skills or knowledge to achieve something
- Feeling like you won’t be able to achieve your goals
- Procrastinating to the point that it affects your performance or ability to finish on time
- Telling people that you will probably fail so that expectations remain low
- Underestimating your own abilities to avoid feeling let down
- Worrying that imperfections or shortcomings will make other people think less of you
- Worrying that you will disappoint others if you fail
In some cases, the fear of failure may cause people to avoid trying altogether. Because they are so afraid that they will try and not succeed, they simply decide not to try at all in order to prevent potential pain, embarrassment, or disappointment.
A fear of failure can take a toll on a person’s belief in their abilities and their motivation to pursue their goals.
- Low self-esteem: People who fear failure may also engage in negative self-talk or have low self-confidence that makes it difficult to pursue goals.
- Poor motivation: When people fear failure, they may also experience a lack of motivation that makes it difficult to get started on projects and work toward goals. When something seems too challenging or involves learning new skills, people may simply give up or refuse to get involved.
- Self-sabotage: It isn’t uncommon for people who fear failure to engage in acts of self-handicapping that undermine their own chances of success. Research has found, for example, that students who fear failing often engage in self-handicapping behaviors that actually limit academic success and perpetuate failure.
- Shame: The fear of failure often stems from a fear of experiencing shame or embarrassment. Failing can trigger feelings worthlessness, so avoiding trying in the first place can sometimes serve as a way to protect the self from disappointment, regret, and sadness.
9. Happiness on hold
Are you waiting on your life circumstances to be just right to finally feel happy or state of happiness?
The concept of the arrival myth is that once you have “arrived” at a certain point in your life, everything will fall into place, and the life you have ALWAYS wanted will begin.
Tell me if any of these sounds familiar for your state of happiness:
“Once I am finally in the right relationship…..then I will be happy”
“As soon as I get out of debt…. then I will be happy”
“Once I am done with school….then I will be happy”
“When I lose those 30 pounds…. then I will be happy”
“Once my kid gets into college… then I will be happy”
“As soon as I get that raise… then I will be happy”
“When I finally leave this horrible job…. then I will be happy”
~And the list goes on and on. ~
We put our happiness off to the future to AFTER we reach some future, external goal or event.
The myth of arrival leaves us believing that once we get to this certain point; our life will magically FEEL better. Because that is what the arrival myth is all about. How you feel.
For me, putting my happiness on hold until I reach some external goal or event seems like a surefire way to wake up on my deathbed never having experienced being happy. Human nature, being what it is, we are always going to keep moving the goal post.
There is also no way to ensure that the thing we are wishing for will even have any effect whatsoever on our happiness. This sets us up for pain, when we reach the goal we so longed for, and the state of happiness we were expecting, never comes.
10. More talk and no action
Most people believe knowledge is power and that success depends on how much a person knows. Knowledge is power but knowledge without action can be useless.
How much you knew did not matter because you never applied what you learnt. Knowledge is power only when you take action. All the knowledge without action only left me overwhelmed. You had been accumulating information without applying and when you wanted to apply there was so much information that you did not know where to begin.
We spend so much time, money and energy acquiring knowledge that we will not use and that will leave us paralyzed from taking any action. We do it through our reading and online consumption. Knowledge is power but time is money.
You don’t always have to possess the knowledge yourself to use it. You might not understand how a plane works, but that doesn’t mean you cannot use it. You indirectly use the knowledge of others when you fly on a plane. Similarly, you can use the knowledge of others to help you achieve the end that you desire. Knowledge is power even if you don’t have it in your mind. Many times this is a smarter thing to do.