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10 Things to Avoid for a Happier 2014

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”’
Helen Keller

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
Marcel Proust

We are standing in a fresh and brand new year.

So I’d like to start it with a bit of a twist. And focus on what to avoid this year to make it an even happier one than 2013. While at the same time adding something you can do to start making positive changes.

I hope you’ll find something in this article that will help you to make this year into something truly special.

1. Avoid overthinking.

Overthinking can make any issue seem bigger and scarier than it actually is. It can hold you back in life and from taking action.

What to do instead:

Set short time-limits for decisions.

This has worked well for me. A few examples:

For small decisions like if should go and do the laundry, start writing a new article or work out I usually give myself 30 seconds or less to make a decision.

For somewhat larger decisions that would have taken me days or weeks to think through in the past I set a deadline for 30 minutes or at least for the end of the workday.

2. Avoid the sea of negative voices.

Our happiness is greatly influenced by the people and the other sources around us.

If you swim around in sea of negative people and information that drag you down into fear, frustration and feeling powerless then that will limit your life.

What to do instead:

Figure out what the biggest time-wasters and energy-drains are among all those things that influence you.

What people?

What other sources like blogs, forums, books, magazines, music and movies?

Write those answers down. Then think about what people and sources that lift you up and make you feel happier about yourself and life.

Make a decision to spend less time with the negative sources and to spend the time you have now freed up with those positive influences.

3. Avoid getting stuck in the past or future.

Spending too much time in the past usually leads to going over old mistakes or failures over and over again and to wishing you could go back and do something about them.

And spending too much time thinking about the future usually leads to worries and to building monsters and nightmare scenarios in your mind.

What to do instead:

Spend more of your time in the present moment. You’ll feel lighter, things will feel easier and you’ll be more alert to appreciate the small wonders of everyday life.

Reconnect with what is happening right now by just sitting down and being still. Then spend a couple of minutes on focusing on just your breaths going in and out. Or on what is going on around you right now with all your senses. Listen, see, smell and feel what is happening in your little part of the world at this moment.

4. Avoid setting a too high bar for happiness.

A common mistake I used to make was to set a too high bar for my own happiness.

And so I usually only felt happy when I achieved something big, when I did something perfectly or when something unexpected and wonderful happened.

You don’t have to wait for those rare occasions to feel happy though.

What to do instead:

Tell yourself as you get out of bed in morning: today I will have a low bar for happiness.

By doing so you’ll take fewer things for granted. Your attention will naturally be more on what is happening in your daily life and you’ll be more grateful for the things there. Like the food, the weather, hanging out with a friend or a pet for a while, the small gestures of kindness and the small moments that pass by so quickly.

This has at least been my experience with this habit. And it has not decreased my drive to achieve things or to get to done. Instead it has made daily life lighter to live. And the path to what I want to achieve a happier one to walk on.

5. Avoid comparing yourself to other people.

Comparing yourself to other people can easily become a destructive and depressing daily habit.

You compare relationships, cars, careers, bodies and houses and at the end of the day your self-esteem is low and you feel like a failure with negativity buzzing around in your head like a swarm of irritating bees.

What to do instead:

Compare yourself to yourself.

See how much you have grown. How far you have come. The progress you have made towards your goals and dreams.  And don’t forget to celebrate the small successes and steps forward too.

This habit will help you to see yourself from a kinder and more helpful perspective where you feel energized as you appreciate the steps you have taken on your journey. Instead of feeling drained and powerless to keep growing and to keep going for what you want out of life.

6. Avoid doing things too fast.

When you go fast pretty much all the time while walking, talking, driving or running then you tend to feel more stressed.

Your focus more easily becomes scattered and it becomes harder to think clearly.

What to do instead:

Slow down. Walk, talk, move, drive and bicycle slower.

The stress in your body and mind will float away. You’ll naturally be more in the moment. And you’ll enjoy all the smells, sights, sounds and experiences of life even more.

7. Avoid making just an enthusiastic January start when it comes to exercise.

The gyms are usually packed during January. So many want to get into better shape and start living a bit more healthy.

Then as February and March roll by the number of people tend to dwindle as a lot of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned.

What to do instead:

Getting regular exercise is so, so helpful both for the physical and mental health.

My workouts reload my mind with optimism and help me to dissolve inner tensions and stress. They make me feel more decisive and confident instead of worried and unsure.

But how can you make an exercise habit stick?

A few things that have helped me personally are:

  • Keep things simple. On some days I just use a pair of dumbbells and work out at home. On other days I may use a body weight circuit at home or go for a long walk in woods. Keeping things simple like this has made it a lot easier to stick with the exercise until it became a habit and to find fewer excuses to skip the workouts.
  • Take small steps forward. You don’t have to exercise for hours. Instead, make things easy for yourself so it doesn’t become this huge mental burden to work out that you will start to procrastinate on in February. Start with just talking short walks. Or go out running for only a few minutes at first. Go for a short beginner’s work out at your local gym.
    You will make progress in time. You can go for longer runs or lift heavier weights later on. But make the beginning easy on yourself so you don’t give up before exercise has become a habit that you gravitate towards and that you crave to feel good.

8. Avoid pushing away how you deep down feel.

It is one thing to focus on what is positive in life.

But it is another thing to try to push away how you deep down feel about something. And it usually doesn’t lead to happiness even if you try to turn on a smile and force the positivity.

What to do instead:

Don’t force the positive thinking. If you have negative feelings or thoughts that pop up again and again then take some time with yourself to think it through. A pen and paper or a journal on your computer can help you to think more clearly.

Or you can talk about it with someone close to you.

After you have accepted and processed how you think and feel about this then write down a small plan – maybe just a step or a couple of them – that you can take action on to move yourself out of this situation and into something better.

And after that get going and get the ball rolling by taking the first small and practical step forward.

9. Avoid spending too little energy and attention on what truly matters to you.

It is easy to get lost and misspend too much of your day and week. On things you might just do out of habit or because you feel you should. On busy work or on things that honestly deep down isn’t that important to you.

What to do instead:

Get your priorities in check. Focus on what truly matters for YOU (and not what matters most to your boss or parents etc.)

Ask yourself: what are the top 4 most important things in my life in 2014?

Maybe it is your family. Or your hobby and to become a better photographer. Or your health and getting in shape. Or an important project at work or in your own business.

Sit down, really think about it and reduce what matters to just the essentials.

Then take out a pen and a small piece of paper and write down just your top 4 priorities for 2014.

Put that note where you cannot avoid seeing it every day. Like in your work space. Or beside your bathroom mirror or on your fridge.

This will help you to keep your focus on the right track every day.

10. Avoid waiting for someone else to make your year happier.

Don’t make the all too common mistake of waiting for someone else to create the year you want to have. That usually leads to much waiting and frustrations.

What to do instead:

Be proactive. Get the ball rolling yourself.

Take action and take the first small step forward with making the changes you want to make to create the happiest year so far.

Set up a coffee date or an evening at the pub with those most positive people in your life. Set the low bar for happiness as you jump or drag yourself out of bed in the morning. Go slow today.

Sit down tonight and write down those four most important things for you in 2014.

And if it feels difficult and you start to procrastinate then remember that you can always take smaller steps forward. Do whatever is needed to reduce that mental barrier and to get yourself to begin or back into taking action again.

Image by notsogoodphotography (license).

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Leo - Actualized.org January 22, 2014, 7:54 am

    A pretty comprehensive list. I think the most important thing is FOCUS! The things I really want to avoid in 2014 is getting distracted. I want to focus my time and energy on just 2 or 3 things for the whole year, and really mastering and enjoying them. For me that’s:

    1) Building my business
    2) Reading and studying a lot of personal development material
    3) Building and keeping the habits of: meditation, visualization, and journaling.

    Great blog Henrik. Reminds me to focus cause I’m already getting distracted and it’s not February yet!

    -Leo

  • shep January 22, 2014, 6:16 pm

    a list of really great advice, simple but hard to find on the web! Thank you .. I hope to follow them throughout the year and also for the coming years …

  • Meg Evans January 24, 2014, 4:20 am

    All good suggestions, and the “What to do instead” format makes this article easy to read and understand. I am putting #2 into action this year by visiting positive blogs regularly, which is how I ended up here! Spending more time with positive influences really does leave me feeling happier in general.

  • Adithya Shetty January 24, 2014, 10:23 am

    Hi Henrik,
    Very post article! I just love it!
    I agree that over-thinking and negative thoughts kill our happiness!

  • srinivas dutt February 5, 2014, 7:50 pm

    happiness is obtained by obtaining it
    sadness is obtained by lossing happiness
    never loose hope never loose happiness

  • George February 8, 2014, 5:24 pm

    Great article! I think that #5 stuck out to me the most. The only real competition in life is with yourself. Once we realize that we no longer resent other peoples achievements or become upset that we aren’t like somebody else. All you have to do is try to be a better you every day.