7 Destructive Habits to Get Rid of If You Want to Be Happy

Happiness can be seen as a state of mind. It’s how we perceive our lives and the world around us. But our inside thoughts can be radically shaped by our actions and behavior in the outside world. Just like forcing a smile can make you feel better, our habits can subtly influence our feelings.

And people don’t necessarily build the healthiest habits. How many people do you know that smoke or drink to excess? We all have the potential to build destructive habits that could be hindering our happiness.

Since happiness is so important, it’s essential to discover these destructive and damaging habits so we can correct them. Otherwise happiness might just become harder and harder to find.

Here are seven destructive habits that might be keeping you from being happy.

1. The need to please others

There’s nothing wrong with finding joy when people are pleased with you. But there’s a big difference between “liking’ when people are pleased with you and “needing” to please people. It’s that “need” that becomes troublesome.

Needing other people’s approval is harmful because you give away your own personal power. Instead of doing things for your own reasons, you start to do them for the sake of others. Instead of listening to your heart for guidance, you listen to other’s opinions.

Your life is yours to live. Once others start dictating your actions and decisions, it becomes much harder to live the life you want.

2. Defining success too narrowly

We all define our own success as a goal or vision based upon what we want out of life. But when we define success too narrowly and it becomes specifically about reaching “X”, we can make ourselves unhappy.

If you’ve set in your mind that success only happens when you reach that goal, you’ll always feel like a failure until you’ve reached it. As a result, you’ll feel unhappy and dissatisfied with how your life is going.

Rather than using only one narrow measure for success, think of multiple ways to define it. If you take a good look at your life, you’ll probably notice a lot of things you’re doing well. Don’t discount all the things that are going great in life simply because you haven’t reached a narrowly defined goal.

3. Complaining too much

Complaints can serve a real purpose if they help you get something off your chest or bring about real change. Voicing your frustrations is a natural way of dealing with them.

But complaining too much is counter-productive. Rather than serving a useful purpose, it becomes about bitterness and negativity.

Instead of getting upset at important, meaningful problems, you get mad at the little things that normally don’t matter. That can make it seem as if the world is full of problems and difficulties that really aren’t there. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when the whole world seems negative.

4. Trying to control everything

Life is inherently unpredictable. Even if you plan everything out, something can always come along to change things.

Trying to plan out and control everything will only drive you crazy. There’s simply no way to account for every contingency.

There is always an element of uncertainty about the future. Nothing is completely predictable. Sometimes you just have to let things happen and stop trying so hard to control everything.

5. Comparing your story to everyone else’s

There’s a lot of truth in the saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side”. No matter how good you have it, someone somewhere will always seem to have it just a little better.

It’s hard not to compare yourself to others. Often that’s how we gauge our progress and find motivation to do even more with our lives.

But if you’re constantly examining how good others’ lives are, you start to forget all the good things going on in your own. And that can lead to low self-esteem and depression.

Instead of spending so much time noticing what others have, start reflecting on all the wonderful things you have going for you.

6. Dwelling on negative experiences from the past

If you spend a lot of time thinking about the mistakes and regrets from the past, it will come at the expense of today. Anger, frustration and resentment can act as emotional dead weight and make it difficult to find happiness. Until you learn from them and move on, you’ll spend too much time on events that are completely outside of your control.

Your past is over and done so there’s very little you can do about it. Any time and energy that you spend thinking and worrying about them would be better spent on situations that are happening in your life right now.

7. Being too hard on yourself

Sometimes it shocks me how critical people can be of their own mistakes and failures. They’ll say horrible things to themselves, even about the simplest errors.

It’s important to live and work in a mindset that is free of harsh criticism and self-deprecating thoughts. By coming down on yourself too harshly, you’ll second guess trying something new or hold back from taking risks. The last thing you want to do is limit an action that might make you happier.

Instead of being a critic, you should be your own cheerleader. Cheerleaders keep rooting for their team even if they’re not doing well. If you get into this “cheerleader” mindset, you’ll keep your spirits high and feel the freedom to move your life in the direction you want.

Steve is the writer behind Do Something Cool where he blogs about travel, motivation, self improvement and adventure. He’s always looking for ways to make life more interesting. For fresh ideas on living life to the fullest, join his newsletter.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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