Some of the biggest obstacles we encounter in life are all in our own heads — fear of failure, low self-esteem, our inner critic, and general negativity. We’re often our own worst enemies. But imagine what we could do if we were our own biggest champions. If we kicked that inner critic in the crotch and, instead, cheered ourselves on each step of the way.
Easier said than done though, right? I hear ya. So let’s look at 10 ways we can eliminate negativity to live a happy life and become our own cheerleaders.
Happy Life Tip #1: Increase Awareness
The first step to any important project is to assess the current situation. You can’t fix things if you don’t know what’s wrong. Or you may THINK you know what’s wrong but, on careful inspection, you could realise there’s a different root problem.
For example, you may feel that your problem is physical clutter and that you just can’t get your shit together enough to clear it out. But perhaps the problem is actually that you develop emotional attachments to things, or that you grew up with a scarcity mentality.
Be conscious of what you’re telling yourself all day long. If something goes wrong, what are your initial thoughts? Who do you blame? What kinds of things do you say to yourself? If it helps, you could write them down. But, for now, just notice what situations make you feel worse about yourself, and what kinds of things you tell yourself.
Happy Life Tip #2: Sack Your Inner Critic & Re-frame Your Thoughts
Once you get to a stage where you’re more mindful of your negative self-talk, it’s time to stop it. Each time you catch yourself thinking a negative thought that doesn’t serve you in any way, switch it. For a happy life, look for the good and the lessons you can learn.
>> Instead of thinking, “I’ll never get my house under control,” think, “There are a finite number of things in my home, so it’s just a matter of getting started and then taking small steps towards the finish line.”
>> Instead of thinking, “I’m no good at this,” think, “Nobody’s great at everything, especially when first starting out. If I pay a bit more attention to it and practise a bit, I’ll get better every day.”
>> Instead of thinking, “I’m a terrible mother,” think, “I love my children and I’m there for them when they need me. I realise that, to be the best mother I can be, I need to ask for help and to take time out to look after myself. I may not be great at everything, but nobody is, and I’m good at the things that matter most, like hugs and kisses.” 🙂
Happy Life Tip #3: Stop Worrying
Worrying in and of itself achieves nothing. An event will not become any less real because you worry about it, but it will become a lot less enjoyable. You’re no more likely to land that promotion because you’ve sat up all night worrying about the interview. Things aren’t more likely to go swimmingly just ‘cause you’ve been stressing about them.
Butterflies and concerns are normal, even in a happy life; worrying to the point where you can’t think of anything else and are making yourself unhappy is doing you absolutely no favours whatsoever. The only thing you’re changing by worrying yourself sick is your own wellbeing. And not for the better.
Remember that what will be will be, whether or not you’re worry-free.
If you need more help with this particular topic, I talk about it in a lot more detail in this post: Why Worry?
Happy Life Tip #4: Practice Self Care
Being “busy” isn’t a badge of honour. Working long hours, having various commitments, pursuing a lot of social activities, volunteering for several charities… While some may be noble in and of themselves, all of them together will only serve to deplete you.
“Busy” is not better. It’s fine to lead a full life, but if you’re not taking the time to care for yourself, you’re burning the candle at both ends and it’s only a matter of time before you start suffering. Refreshing, recharging and re-energising are all vitally important for a long and happy life. You’re not much good to anybody if you’re burnt out, so best to put your feet up for a bit and have a little fun.
Not convinced you can benefit from a break? Check out my post: Is It Better To Always Be Busy?
Happy Life Tip #5: Stop Caring What Other People Think
This is a tough one because we’re hard-wired to seek social connections, and a big part of that involves making ourselves as acceptable and likeable as possible so that we don’t end up fighting off hungry mammoths alone. (Admittedly, we’ve evolved a little since then… but not much!)
But we often give too much of our time to trying to win over a certain group and end up being “fake” to continue to fit in. Exhausting! Not everyone is going to like you; them’s the facts. So wouldn’t it be wonderful to stop spending energy trying to do the impossible by pleasing everyone and, instead, find a bunch of people who accept you for who you are and not just the picture you’re presenting?
And look, I hate to break it to you, but the people you think you’re horrifying are hardly giving you a second thought. Today’s headlines are tomorrow’s old news. Rather be judged for who you are than who you’re pretending to be. So go ahead and fly your freak flag, ‘cause haters gonna hate.
If this is an area you struggle with, this post should help you stop giving a shit about what others think: How To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
Happy Life Tip #6: Harness The Power Of Confirmation Bias
This is the section where I try to dazzle you with science. 😉
Confirmation bias is basically the theory that we seek out things that match our beliefs and ignore anything that doesn’t. If, for example, you think it always starts raining every time you hang out the washing, you’ll only ever notice the times that actually happens, and be oblivious to the times it doesn’t (or fob them off by calling them flukes).
It’s a bit “power of positive thinking”, but if you start telling yourself specific good things, you’ll start noticing them a lot more. So, for instance, if you think you’re always late, start telling yourself instead that you arrive on time, and then pay particular attention to every instance that it’s true.
Basically, your brain will become biased to your belief, and start searching for evidence to back you up. ‘Cause it’s good like that.
It may not necessarily change your behaviour, but it will change the way you think about it. Instead of berating yourself for each time you’re late, you’ll start celebrating each time you’re early. It’s a subtle but powerful difference, and one that’s been immensely helpful for me in leading a happy life.
Happy Life Tip #7: Complete Niggling Tasks
There’s nothing more annoying than something that remains undone. A squeaky wheel, a creaky door, a crooked shelf… More often than not, they’re pretty minor things that could remain unfixed for quite some time without much consequence… except to your mental wellbeing.
What’s the one task you’ve been putting off for several months? The thing you keep telling yourself you need to do? Now’s the time to take it off the back burner and make it a front runner on your to-do list. Get it done once and for all, and bask in the warm glow of achievement and self-satisfaction. Then use that extra brain power you’ve just freed up to start daydreaming about different rewards for yourself.
Need to jump-start your motivation? I’ve got you covered: What To Do When Your Motivation Is Missing
Happy Life Tip #8: Eliminate Negative People & Influences
No-one likes a Negative Nancy. The people you surround yourself with should support you and lift you up. If, instead, they’re sucking your energy and dragging you down, it’s time to cut them out. Unfollow them on Facebook, make your excuses not to socialise with them, stop returning their calls… Phase out the phonies and make more time for your true friends.
The same goes for everything in your life. Notice what activities and foods leave you feeling less than your best. There are lots of things we do out of obligation or pure habit; take the time to analyse the contribution things are making to your life, and then cut out as appropriate.
Perhaps you agreed to help out at your kid’s school once upon a time, and now you find you’re called upon for every jumble sale, Christmas concert, and bake-a-thon. Politely excuse yourself by saying you’ve other obligations, and fucking SKEDADDLE.
Don’t you feel better at just the thought of it? So go do it!
Happy Life Tip #9: Stop Giving A Fuck
You’ll probably already know by now that I’m a big fan of Sarah Knight’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck”. The lessons contained within are how I’ve always tried to live my life but there’s something sublime about seeing it written in black and white. It’s like a permission slip to finally tell the world to kindly fuck off.
Make your excuses for things you don’t want to do. As long as you’re polite about it, people won’t be any the wiser that you’re at home with your hair in a bun and your feet in fluffy socks. Stop donating to causes you don’t believe in just because someone’s badgering you, stop attending parties that make you want to poke out your own eyes, and stop getting sucked into hare-brained schemes that seem like fun to others but feel like torture to you.
Stock phrases like “a prior commitment”, “a family emergency”, and “personal reasons” are all perfectly polite and acceptable, and don’t invite a lot of prying. And no-one has to know that your prior commitment is to your Netflix subscription, or your family emergency involves sex with your other half while you’ve got the house to yourselves for the evening.
This flowchart from Sarah’s book (which I recommend), should help:
Happy Life Tip #10: Learn To Love & Accept Yourself
I’m pretty sure you’ve heard by now that you’re unique. You’re like Liam Neeson in “Taken” — you have a particular set of skills. No-one else has your exact melting pot of amazingness, and no-one else has your beautiful blend of brilliance and wit.
In short, you’re like that uber expensive coffee that’s made out of droppings. Sure, there’s a little shit in there, but it’s still highly sought after and people are more than happy to shell out the big bucks for it.
If people can drink melted shit, you can surely stretch to the odd pat on the back for being awesome.
For more on the topic (minus the dung discussion), read my popular posts: Love Yourself (Without The Expensive Therapy Bill) and Acceptance.
And hey, because you’re so fucking fantastic, I’ve thrown in a bonus tip:
Happy Life (Bonus) Tip #11: Declutter Your Physical Space
Because frankly, it’s hard to focus when your physical space is full of crap. And, let’s face it, it’s probably one of those niggling tasks I talked about earlier in #7, so get the job done and give yourself a bit more breathing space, physically AND mentally. ‘Cause how sane can you really be when you lose your keys every morning?
If you need a little help in the tidying department, the post I wrote last week is a veritable smorgasbord of tips and advice: 10 Ways To Declutter Your Home.
And there you have it —
10 11 ways to banish negativity from that beautiful brain of yours once and for all, and live the happy life you’re meant to live. They won’t all come easily but, with practice, you’ll soon stop pissing on your own parades. Mount that float and get marching!
(Speaking of which, an early Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you!)
Which ‘happy life’ item above do you think will be most helpful to you?
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