There are plenty of things you can, theoretically, add to your life to be happier.
Exercise! Gratitude! Spending time with friends! Hooray!
What’s more surprising is that there are plenty of things you can take out of your life to be a happier person. Think of it as decluttering your house, except instead of your house, it’s your entire life.
To help you kick off the elimination process, we checked out the Quora thread, “What are the things that, if you give up on them, will make your life a lot easier and much, much happier?” and highlighted the best ideas.
Read on to find out which behaviors need to get the boot, stat.
1. Comparing yourself to others
“The day you stop the comparison of things [t]hat you possess with others, you will be much happier,” writes Quora user Vipul Patni.
Research suggests that there’s one key reason why constantly peering over your shoulder is unproductive: You don’t get a completely accurate picture of others’ emotional lives.
A 2011 study found that people significantly underestimate the number of negative emotions others experience – and overestimate the number of positive emotions they experience.
In other words, there’s little point comparing yourself to other people, because you’ll probably never know how much they’re really struggling.
2. Trying to change other people
Sure, your life might be better if the people around you behaved exactly as you wanted them to. But that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, so focus instead on the things you can control.
“If the person doesn’t have a desire to change within them already, you will end up wasting precious time and energy talking to a brick wall. You can’t make people grow. Some people have to grow at their own pace and learn the hard way before they start making the right decisions.”
- Pabak Sarkar/flickr
3. Fearing failure
Failing, and getting upset about it, is an inevitable part of life. But don’t let it consume you.
“Don’t have fear of failing. Its okay if you fail, but don’t stop moving. Keep moving forward, don’t look back when you should not. Consider each failure as a stepping stone and not stumbling block.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean ignoring your feelings and charging ahead. In a Psychology Today column, psychologist Guy Winch writes:
“It is important to accept that failure makes you feel both fear and shame, and to find trusted others with whom you can discuss these feelings.
Bringing these feelings to the surface can help prevent you from expressing them through unconscious efforts to sabotage yourself, and getting reassurance and empathy from trusted others can bolster your feelings of self-worth while minimizing the threat of disappointing them.”
4. Regretting the past
Looking back on the past, we all get the sense that we could or should have done things differently.
But Prabakaran ThodithotSembiyan cites those “I should have done it” and “I shouldn’t have said that” thoughts as detrimental to his happiness.
Interestingly, a 2008 study found that people tend to value the experience of regret and believe it has some beneficial outcomes, such as making you more insightful and pushing you to pursue the life you desire.
That said, regret can also hurt your ability to recover from stressful life events.
If you feel like you’re consumed by regret, take a tip from psychologist Melanie Greenberg. In a Psychology Today column, she suggests giving yourself a break by considering the circumstances that may have limited your ability to make good choices at the time.
5. Expecting things from other people
Multiple Quora users offered some variation on the idea that high expectations can get in the way of happiness.
For example, Vikash Bhandari says you should never expect anything from others: “Stop sitting and expecting things to happen, rise and roll the balls and do make things happen.”
Meanwhile, Gayathri Vijayakumar says that when your expectations go unfulfilled, “you feel crushed and broken.” Instead don’t expect anything: “Surprises are better than disappointments.”
6. Trying to please everyone
“If you try to please everyone,” writes Alok Pandey, “you end up pleasing [no one], sometimes not even yourself.”
In a Psychology Today column, psychologist Julie J. Exline writes that there’s a difference between “being kind and helpful” and “being crippled by fears of interpersonal conflict” – and the latter is what often characterizes people-pleasers.
To get over your people-pleasing tendencies, Exline says you may simply have to tolerate the discomfort of saying “no.” Over time, through repeated exposure to this experience, it will get easier.
7. Holding onto grudges
Several Quora users mentioned that it’s unwise to carry around grudges and the hope of getting revenge. In the long run, it only ends up hurting you – not the person who upset you.
“Your mind and soul should not wear this weight,” says Aarushi Sharma. “Let yourself breathe.”
Psychologist Seth Meyers told Health.com that holding onto grudges can increase your stress levels and your risk for health problems such as high blood pressure. He recommends getting introspective and figuring out whether the thing you’re supposedly upset about isn’t a stand-in for something deeper.
For example: “Are you really upset that an acquaintance bailed on your birthday party, or are you more bothered by the fact that you and your BFF aren’t as close anymore?”