Guest Writer : Trishna Patnaik
Subtle Habits indicating that you are sabotaging your own happiness
Make sure your worst enemy is not living between your own two ears.
Everybody wants to know what they can do in order to be happier. We all crave and desire some combination of lessons, tricks, inspiration, goals, strategies, life-hacks, pills, or even apps that will add more happiness and wellbeing into our respective lives.
What if finding happiness is less about what we must add and more about what we must subtract? What if the smarter, healthier and more apt way to find your happiness is to focus on removing the things that make you specifically unhappy?
It is about discovering the things that are making you miserable and doing your very best to eliminate and eradicate all of them. More often than not, the very things that make us miserable are our own habits: subtle but yet such powerful patterns we have fallen into since maybe childhood that gnaw away and bite away at our happiness, day after day, month after month, year after year!
Here are 6 of the most common habits that sabotage our happiness and some brief thoughts on how to eliminate them.
1. Worrying about the future and other people’s opinions about you
Worrying is the mental habit of trying to solve a problem that either cannot be solved or is not really a problem. It is easy to fall into it because it feels productive, like we are at least doing something. It staves off the feeling we hate most of all: helplessness and being incapacitated.
Worry does give us the illusion of control. Yes, sometimes we are helpless. Sometimes things are bad, or are painful or even terrifying and there is nothing much we can do about it.
Yes, something terrible and catastrophic could happen to you or people you care about in the future. Yes, some people really, truly, deep-down do not like you very much maybe even detest you.
Worrying about it is a denial of reality. It is a hardcore demand that everything be the way you want it to be. It is an attempt to control what is fundamentally outside your control. It is expectations that have gone wild.
Learn to accept the pain, distress and more so the situation of what is or what might be and let go of your habit of worry and all the anxiety it generates.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. — Reinhold Niebuhr
2. Isolating yourself when you are feeling down
Why would you apologize for feeling and expressing sadness?
We are ashamed of our emotions and how we feel and try to hide them from others, even the people we are supposedly closest to. Tears are actually really helpful to understand a current situation. They are an innate sign that something we are talking about is important and valuable. That is true for all of us!
Visibly painful emotions like sadness, fear and frustration help signal to people around us that we are struggling and could possibly use some help or support. You do not need coping strategies when you are sad, or discouraged, or feeling lonely, paralyzed, or even helpless. You need people. You need support. You need someone to give you a hug, listen carefully to your story and maybe share a box of ice cream with!
When we hide our pain and isolate ourselves, we throw away the most powerful antidepressant known to man that is the loving support from people who care about us. So, while it is totally natural to hide yourself away and isolate when you are in pain or suffering, just do the opposite. Reach out. Ask for support. Connect.
We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep. ― William James
3. Keeping quiet and continue “going with the flow”
It is true that most people dislike conflict. But that is just because most people do not know that there is a good way to do conflict.
Most of us hesitate to push back and stand up for ourselves because we are afraid of being perceived as aggressive, pushy, conniving, or rude. So we default towards being passive, accepting, quiet, and generally just “going with the flow” (which is usually just a euphemism for being a doormat!)
There is a middle road between being a passive doormat and an aggressive (or passive-aggressive) bully: You can be assertive. Assertiveness technically means standing up for your own wants, needs, and values. It means asking for what you want and saying no to what you do not want in a way that is clear, respectful, and honest. Assertiveness is a skill anyone can learn.
The road to genuine self-esteem, confidence, and self-respect is assertiveness through the willingness to align your actions with your values no matter what the circumstance.
Staying silent is like a slow growing cancer to the soul… There is nothing intelligent about not standing up for yourself. You may not win every battle. However, everyone will at least know what you stood for—YOU. ― Shannon L. Alder
4. Talking trash to yourself in your very head
Everybody has self-talk that is a running commentary in your own head about everything from what shoes to wear and why; to what your neighbour thinks about your new haircut. It is our inner narrator who constantly describes the story of our life as it unfolds in front of us.
Unfortunately and irrationally, many of us A) are not very aware of our self-talk, and B) have a brutally negative, judgmental style of self-talk.
Think about it: If you did talk to other people the way you talk to yourself, you would probably have zero friends, no job, and multiple warrants out for your arrest!
The reason we all have such harsh, negative self-talk is because we were taught as children that being “tough and brutal” on yourself was possibly motivating and the apparently best way to force you to be disciplined and get your stuff done.
But the truth is, negative self-talk is not actually a very good source of genuine motivation. Even if you are the kind of person who is been reasonably disciplined and successful in your pursuits, it is probably despite your negative self-talk, not because of it.
So if negative self-talk is not motivating, what function does it actually serve? Nothing good is the answer! It will function to make you depressed, anxious, chronically guilty, and incapable of redemption and eventually turn you hopeless.
So turn off that negative vibe of horrifying self- talk and inculcate a positive framework of thinking, feeling and emoting which is by way of knowing what you want out of life by way of finding purpose!
This very purpose will help you prioritise your thoughts for the better which in turn leads to finding actions for the better and your good actions will become your good deeds and your good deeds will become your life in general!
He who would be useful, strong, and happy must cease to be a passive receptacle for the negative, beggarly, and impure streams of thought. —James Allen
5. Trying to manage your stress
The biggest lie we have all been told about chronic stress is that you need to get better at managing it. Why is this lie then?
Stress management is actually a pretty terrible solution to the problem of chronics stress because to point out what should be obvious you are already stressed! Stress management is a Band-Aid. It is treating the symptoms.
Which is fine as a last resort, but it is a terrible overall strategy because it distracts us from thinking carefully about the true causes of our stress, that is the stressors. The stressor is the thing that causes a stress response!
If you are constantly stressed, the long-term solution is to fix the original cause of the stress (the stressor) not the very feeling (the stress response).
If you are constantly stressed at work, you could try and work on more deep breathing exercises or spend more time journaling about the things you are grateful for then maybe your stress level will decrease a little for a certain period of time.
But that is not going to change the fact that you are terrible at saying “no” and that you possibly take on way more projects than you can reasonably handle. In other words, feeling stressed at work is the messenger trying to tell you that something about how you work is enormously wrong.
Stress management techniques like deep breathing exercises and mindfulness are effectively shooting the messenger. Stress is not the problem. It is the constant flood of stressors in your life that is making you miserable.
There is nothing objectively wrong with traditional stress management techniques like deep breathing or even mindfulness. The problem is the habit of thinking about chronic stress only in terms of how we feel by way of our stress response. In reality, the far more important part of the equation is the stressor(s) that are causing the stress in the first place!
Stop trying to manage your stress and start managing your stressors. — Me
6. Believing your own thoughts unconditionally and univocally
So what is so special about your thoughts?
Why is it that do you give over so much respect, authority and meaning to everything that pops into your mind? The idea jumped into your head that your co-worker thinks you are lazy… so what? Does that even mean anything? Is the fact that you had a thought about that idea which had genuine evidence that it is true? So does it mean you have social anxiety? Is it just another sign that you have invariably low self-esteem and do need to get into see a shrink immediately?
Fine, they do think you are lazy. But the fact that you had a thought about it does not make it any more or less likely. But guess what? Here is the catch, if every time thoughts like that pop into your mind and you give them tons of attention, exert lots and lots of mental energy over them and read into them with all sorts of deep, weighty meaning, you are teaching and train your own mind to throw more of those thoughts at you.
Cue the vicious cycle of chronic intrusive thoughts and all the anxiety plus distress that goes along with them! Please remember: Your thoughts are not special. A lot of them are actively detrimental if you maintain a habit of always giving them tons of respect and attention. Do cultivate a healthy skepticism towards your own thoughts. Learn to let them be. You will be happier for it.
The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. ― Eckhart Tolle
When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.- Jean Shinoda Bolen
About The Author
Trishna Patnaik, a BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practising art for over 14 years. After she had a professional stint in various reputed corporates, she realised that she wanted to do something more meaningful. She found her true calling in her passion that is painting. Trishna is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. She says, “It’s a road less travelled but a journey that I look forward to everyday.” Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai and other metropolitan cities of India.Trishna is an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a one on one basis in Mumbai.Trishna fancies the art of creative writing and is dappling her hands in that too, to soak in the experience and have an engagement with readers, wanderers and thinkers.