11 Habits You Need to Give Up to Be Happy

11 Habits You Need To Give-Up to Be Happy

by Lisa H.

Are your habits and routines sucking up your happiness?

Oftentimes we unknowingly hold on to little, obsessive habits that cause us a great deal of stress and unhappiness.  Even when we feel that something is wrong, we fail to seek the changes we need to make and instead cling to what’s not working, simply because it’s what we’re accustomed to.

It’s time to make a change.  It’s time to give up the habits that no longer serve your well-being and embrace the positive changes you need to be happy.

Today is the perfect day to give up…

1.  Worrying about… everything.

Worry is the biggest happiness slayer ever.  Worry steals all of your attention and gives the illusion that you are working through a problem when you are not.  As Van Wilder said, “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

People worry for all sorts of reasons: to escape reality, fear of the unknown, resistance to change, lack of confidence, etc.

Stopping worry, like everything else takes practice; the more you do it, the better you will become at discerning when you are no longer controlling your thoughts and they are controlling you.

Tip:  To jolt yourself out of worry, ask yourself what you can do “right now” to make your life more pleasant and then do that!

2.  Constant, deliberate, people-pleasing.

Contrary to what you may think, saying “yes” to every request that is made of you is not nice.  First, it is not nice to you because it can leave you emotionally, mentally and physically drained.  And second, it is not nice to the other person, because it deceives them into thinking that you have the time, energy and other resources available to make what they want happen, when you do not.

Generally people who carry out the duties of others at the expense of themselves have low self-esteem and high levels of unhappiness.  They need the approval of others to make themselves feel worthy.

Tip:  To combat people-pleasing behavior, learn to say “no.”  Oftentimes when you say “no” to someone else, you are really saying “yes” to YOU.

3.  Procrastinating.

Procrastination is stagnation.  There is no other way to say it.  When you procrastinate, nothing good in your life is happening.

We procrastinate for all sorts of reasons.  When we are afraid of the outcome, we are unsure how to complete the task and when we just don’t feel like taking action.

And the thing is, we spend more time aggravating ourselves with worry about how long or how difficult the task is going to be rather than just doing it.  More often than not, if you just start your task, you will be pleasantly surprised at how easily you are able to accomplish it.

Tip:  When you feel yourself getting ready to procrastinate, silently say “stop” to yourself, refocus and begin again by taking calculated action that will lead to the results you desire.  (Read Getting Things Done.)

4.  Living in the past.

The past is gone for good and yet we spend so much time thinking about what happened yesterday, at the complete expense of today.  Keeping your thoughts stuck in the past is especially detrimental to your contentment.  You are a product of your environment.  Your environment has helped to shape how you think and feel about yourself.  Everyone has been presented with life challenges along their journey – you aren’t alone.  It is whether you are stuck in the patterns of the past or have moved past them.

Tip:  If you are harboring resentment, anger, frustration or other negative feelings from your past, don’t ignore these feelings.  Do something constructive about it so that you can move into the present.

5.  Always looking past the present moment in anticipation of the next.

We spend so much time in this moment, wanting to be in the next one, that we are missing our lives.

For example, while taking a shower, you might be thinking about that cup of coffee you want to make, and while you are drinking your coffee, you might be thinking about your commute to work.  You are never consciously present right where you are and therefore cannot enjoy the moment you are in – the moment we call “life.”

Tip:  Now is the only time you have.  Now is life.  Make sure you are fully experiencing it.

6.  Judging others.

When you judge someone else, you suffer.  It is an outward display of inward inferiority and anger.  No one person is better than another.  The individual who cleans the bathroom at a fast food restaurant is no less of a person than the CEO that uses it.

Tip:  Understand that we are all part of the collective human race.  We are one.  Your joy is my joy and your suffering is my suffering.  (Read Buddha’s Brain.)

7.  Comparing your story to everyone else’s.

It is good to notice what others are doing from time to time.  After all, that is what helps us outline what we want and don’t want in our own lives.  But comparing yourself to everyone else every step of the way takes it too far.  You know when this happens – when you stop living your dreams or start living theirs.

Tip:  You are unique.  No matter how hard you try to be like someone else, you will never be them, and you shouldn’t want to be.

8.  Shame.

Shame is a deep, debilitating emotion, with complex roots.  Its cousins are guilt, humiliation, demoralization, degradation and remorse.  After experiencing a traumatic event, whether recent or in the distant past, shame can haunt victims in a powerful and often unrecognized manner.

Shame impairs the healing and recovery process causing victims of trauma to stay frozen, unable to forgive themselves for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Shame leaves victims with feelings of sadness and pain at the core of their being.  They are unable to feel the fullness of joy in their lives.

If you feel any shame at all, acknowledge it upfront.  Decide to experiment on forgiving yourself and letting go of the shame.  How long can you go without reminding yourself about the shameful thoughts and feelings?  How would life be different or better if you were able to forgive yourself?  Who can you talk to about this?

Tip:  The more you forgive yourself, the more time you have to focus your mind on happier times.

9.  Disorganization and laziness.

We complain that there are not enough hours in a day to accomplish all that we want, yet our laziness often leads us to many wasteful hours of disorganization.  The discipline it takes to sort through a messy desk, counter, closet or mind take time.  Becoming organized is a habit.  Start with something small, like your office desk or even making your bed after you get up.

Tip:  Studies have shown that people who make their beds are statistically more productive, profitable and peaceful in their lives and careers.  Interesting, isn’t it?  But not surprising.

10.  Fear of… everything.

Fear is one of the biggest reasons why we don’t move ahead in our lives.  Fear of failing and fear of succeeding.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of fear.  As long as we are alive, we are prone to some level of fear.  Ironically, to feel alive we must overcome that fear with action.  As Bill Cosby once said, “Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.”

Tip:  Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that your happiness and growth is more important than it.  Do something every day that stretches your comfort zone and helps you face what your fear.  (Read Daring Greatly.)

11.  The need to be busy.

Busyness is often confused with productivity.  They are two different things.  Busy is running in place on a treadmill; productivity is actually getting somewhere worthwhile.  These days technology gives us this constant feeling that there is so much to do and not enough time to do it.  We are always connected to something that wants our attention, or something that could be done.  This feeling creates stress.  The more behind you think you are, the more stressed out you are going to feel.

Stress is not good for you.  It makes it difficult to think, connect with others and it is associated with a plethora of physical ailments that lead to unhappiness.

Tip:  Stop trying to be busy.  Put first things first and give up the rest.  Organization, meditation, improved time management and efficiency and a change in perception are all ways to manage stress.  You must learn to let go.  Release the excess.  You were never able to do it all anyway.

Your turn…

What would you add to the list?  What’s one obsessive habit or routine that has been making you unhappy?  What can be done about it?  Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Author Bio:  Lisa H. is a mother, entrepreneur, self-proclaimed introvert and practitioner of all things happy.  With her blog, Getting to Zen, she aims to inspire you to re-awaken your spirit, live fearlessly and do what you love.

Photo by: Alex Proimos


  1. says

    @ Amandah: I love that quote. In fact, I recently used it on my blog in an article about my journey through OCD. Worrying is definitely not worth it!

    Absolutely! You should always be yourself. Whether others like you is up to them. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Oscar Wilde “Be yourself because everyone else is taken.” Thanks for sharing.

  2. says

    @Amanda: Thanks for the tip on courage. I like it. I also like “leap and the net will appear” ~unknown and “decide that you want it more than you’re afraid of it” by Bill Cosby. Isn’t it great how a simple quote can have such huge impact.

  3. says

    @Shefali: I like that one! Reaction can cause us to endure unwanted consequences. Taking a moment of silence and objectively looking at the situation, gives us the space to choose our response.

  4. Black Roses says

    Shame is a huge one for me. Since this guy, let’s call him johnny, stopped calling and texting me in addition to never asking me to hang out with him (and never will) I feel so much embarrassment for putting my heart and trust in him. I feel like a fool but time heals all wounds and life goes on. Lovely piece!

  5. says

    @Kate: Love that! Great you realized that in your 30’s. The sooner the better. I also had to learn that no matter how nice you are, not everyone is going to like you. This lesson really hit home in 2010 while I was dealing with a difficult person.

    I love what you said about being honest! It is so important we are honest with ourselves not only about who we are, but who others are. As Maya Angelou says “when people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” It is also important we are honest with those in our most intimate circle. Honesty is self caring. It is light and love and when practiced, brings even more light and love. :-)

  6. says

    @David Gardner: Say thank you to Sally from me too! I’m glad this article resonated with you. Stillness is essential for hearing the messages of our soul. I like the goal of living every minute like it was your last, because the truth is, it could be.

    Happiness is most definitely a choice. You don’t want to come to the end of you life and realize it then. Thanks for stopping by and for the wonderful insights:-)

  7. says

    @Kris: Hi Kris, thanks for sharing that. I am no stranger to worry. In fact, up until about 10 years ago, worry, anxiety and fear consumed most of my life. You can read about it in one of my more recent articles titled: I’m Not Crazy: My Journey through OCD. I still have work to do, but am further along.

    One of my favorite quotes about worry is “Worry is like a rocking chair. It keeps you moving but doesn’t get you anywhere.” I can’t remember who it is by, but it has been a great reminder for me to shift focus to something that will get me somewhere. Hope this helps. :-)

  8. says

    @ Dianne Brodie: That’s a big one to give up. I still have work to do on that one. Fantastic to you! Life just flows so much better when ego isn’t involved. :-)

  9. says

    These are great reminders – if we stop procrastinating, comparing ourselves to others, and worrying all of the time, we would all be much better off (not to mention we would feel healthier and happier).

  10. says

    @H: Great point! And I’ll add that if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot fully take care of others. You may be able to be there physically, but if your mental and emotional reserves are low, you will have very little to give.

  11. MrsBill says

    Its 5.15am here in Western Australia and my husband has just left for work – I have a routine !!

    I sit and read Marcandangel for my daily dose of “How to Live Today”…. I always find a new mindset from the list of Sensational Road Signs and the day is so precious I don’t want to waste any of it.

    Cheers and know YOU @ marcandangel make a difference

  12. says

    Yikes, at the height of what I now refer to as my earlier “half happy life” I was doing 9 of these 11 things. No wonder I wasn’t happy! These are awesome tips, totally on the mark. Great post. Bernadette :)

  13. Nakita H. says

    Thanks for these tips, I have anxiety right now and fear is the major emotion and it is holding me back and i just want to live life happy and not scared so thanks again.

  14. says

    Lovely, really fascinating stuff. I’m working on that burden of resentment that been plaguing me, looks like I’m winning though.

  15. Catherine says

    Very inspiring words, thank you. I would add 2 things that I notice in my own life:
    1) Trying to control everything (and I mean everything) – this only leads to disappointment and unhappiness, because you have to accept that some things are just beyond your control.
    2) Overthinking – Don’t know I need to elaborate on this one.


  16. says

    @Jeffrey James: Well said. It is fine to cultivate what we like about others within ourselves. What leads to unhappiness is comparing ourselves to others against the backdrop of envy, jealousy and judgement.

  17. says

    @Mel: So glad you found Marc and Angel Hack Life. Things always have a way of showing up in our lives when we need them most. As Richard Bach said; “you are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true.” Keep learning, growing and moving forward. :-)

  18. says

    @ Ade: Yes, I’ve struggled with that one too. What really got me to get organized was recognizing how my disorganization was holding me back.

    You are so right about disorganization wasting time. LOL! It takes less time to find something you want if you know where it is.

    And then there’s also financial, emotional and mental disorganization. The way I see it is an organized life frees you up for more good things to happen. :-)

  19. says

    @MrsBill: Thank you.

    @Richa: Reading your comment gave me goosebumps. Congratulations for putting yourself out there! I know how difficult that can be. But if you won’t take the risk, you don’t give yourself a shot at the reward. “Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it” is one of my favorite quotes. Have fun on vacation and let us know how it goes.

    @JJ: Thanks for stopping by and the kind words.

    @Denise: Great insight! I too have used the day to day activities in my life as an excuse not to take care of myself in the way I needed to. But the thing is….there was always time to take care of me…. I could wake up early each morning and spend 30 minutes in meditation, contemplation and reflection. Glad you are turning things around. After all, if we aren’t there for ourselves, it makes it difficult for us to be there for others. We may be there physically, but if we are emotionally and mentally drained, we won’t have that to give.

    @Jack: LOL. Thank you! I’ll take a bag of chips and a sweet tea too.

  20. says

    Thank for the clear and important article. This everything so true.
    One more happieness killer is to do things for finding recognition from others. We should be who we are and than live our lifes for what makes us happy.

  21. Ndisya says

    Many thanks for sharing with us this knowledge. I think my most limiting habit is that some times I waste a lot of time trying to think about things that I don’t have than the ones I have at the moment. It’s a very challenging situation to cope with. But with the knowledge I’m getting in this blog I’m able to control this habit.

  22. Johnny says

    Great post, I have been catching up on your blog. I stopped reading and got into a negative rut, and finally got out of it and started soaking up positive messages again. This post really hit home – it is always the simplest, straight forward path that takes you where you need to go !

    Its nice to catch up and feel like I’m in a familiar place : )

  23. Ahana says

    A wonderful blog post. I certainly relate a lot to this. I would add to the list is to be liked by everyone and to do everything you can for everyone you know..thereby consequently giving yourself little or absolutely no time. I’d try to implement all of the above. Thanks a lot!

  24. says

    Oh my goodness, I do need help here. Every one of the “11 Habits You Need To Give Up To Be Happy” apply to me. After my daughter sent this link to me and I have read the different posts, I realize I need to be a part of this. Where and how does one start, when there are so many changes to be made within one’s self? My mantra for awhile now has been “one day at a time” but even with this, I struggle almost daily. Would welcome any thoughts. Thank you.

  25. says

    I would say that numbers 1, 3 and 4 are the three that resonated with me the most.

    I am so bent on everything in my personal life being “perfect” (an observation made by friends and family) that I worry about everything!

    Trying not to make a mistake, I then do everything that I can not to, by doing everything but the task I should be doing.

    I then worry about what everyone thinks about my lack of progress, and it continues!

  26. Centaine-C says

    Procrastinating, I’m working at that. But I procrastinate a lot because of my fear for yes; everyting. It’s time to overcome that. Need tips, a lot!

  27. says

    Laziness is probably one of the biggest influences on how you feel. Watching television or playing videos games the whole day will slowly take all your motivation away. I used to do this all the time, and it made me feel empty. Nowadays I work at a nice little company and make YouTube videos for fun, which makes me feel a lot better about myself. Great post Marc and Angel!

  28. Gwen says

    Gosh. After reading this, I know I need to make changes. Gotta make a move. You know what they say, “it’s never too late to make a change as long as you start it now.”

  29. Asha says

    Thanks so much… it really helped me…

    “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

    So true.

  30. Flynn says

    This is a brilliant article which has helped to make me feel happier. For me, living in the present moment is a biggie. But I would add “Pushing yourself too hard”. This kind of fits in with worrying and comparing yourself to others, but I think, to be happy, you need to listen to your body and mind and accept when you have reached your limit. We live in a world where we try so hard to be perfect, especially with work and studying. Sometimes we need to know when to realise your limits and just let go.

  31. Renato says

    Some habits we acquire and become a part of our daily lives, are a real force that drains our life energy and leave us weary and weak. I think one of the habits we need to give up is the excessive and wrong use of the Internet and other communication technologies. These things hinder our potential to experiment real life and can be a real danger for our health and safety. It could ruin our lives and our happiness. The Internet is good for many things, like finding a great article like this, but it can also be a real trap if we don’t use it well. Therefore, if this has been your case, give it up now, and live a better life!

  32. Foop says

    I will stop procrastinating. When I have a thought to do something I will do it rather than analyze it.

  33. Mark says

    Love the article. It took me 52 years to realize what you have is listed here. I finally found that until I was happy with myself that there was no way I could help the others in my life be happy. Wished I had this info 30 years ago. Thank you.

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