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Health & Wellness

Four Habits and Attitudes to Ditch for a Happier Life

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Boosting happiness often doesn’t require getting or having more.

Instead, shedding self-sabotaging habits, beliefs and attitudes may be the real secret to a more fulfilling life. Here are four things all of us can, very happily, do without.

Brooding

Out of nowhere a driver zooms into the parking spot you were waiting for. A friend cancels a lunch date at the last minute. The book you reserved at the library has been checked out by someone else. These types of common irritations can ruin your entire day if you let them. As psychiatrist Judith Orloff, M.D., notes in her book Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life, we choose whether or not to give petty annoyances running room. Brood over these incidents and they can ruin an otherwise lovely day. A better way, Dr. Orloff says, is to tackle the situation as best you can; feel the frustration; perhaps, express it to a friend, and then move on. “This approach takes the edge off life’s aggravations,” Dr. Orloff says, “and allows you to take charge of your feelings.”

Self-Criticism

We all at times hear a negative inner voice that tells us we were a bore at the party, too chatty or not chatty enough at the last family get-together, a less-than-perfect parent or grandparent. For some of us, that voice is ever present. Psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush You Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love, suggests catching yourself and reframing those negative thoughts. Ask yourself these questions: “How do I want to see this situation?” “How might someone I admire view it?” “What advice would I give a friend in the same situation?”

An “I Can’t” Attitude

If you believe you can’t do something, you’re probably right, psychologists like to say. That’s because that self-defeating mindset will lead to inertia rather than action. In her memoir The Choice: Embrace the Possible, Edith Eva Eger, Ph.D., a psychologist and Auschwitz survivor, writes that before you can change your behavior, you might need to change how you describe your actions to yourself. Instead of saying “I always do this” or “I can’t do that” say, “Up until now I’ve done this.” Or, “In the past, I was this way.” “You can’t change what you did or what was done to you,” Dr. Eger writes. “Having unpleasant experiences and making mistakes is part of being human. But we can choose how we live now.”

Constant Multitasking

We check our email when we’re stopped at a red light, have the TV turned to a news station while we’re playing with the grandkids. A ping, a beep, a buzz is all it takes to divert our attention. That constant juggling act can keep us feeling vaguely unsatisfied because we’re never fully immersed in what we’re doing or completely focused on the people we’re with. Hugh Byrne, Ph.D., author of The Here and Now Habit: How Mindfulness Can Help You Break Unhealthy Habits Once and For All, writes “It’s important, to step off the treadmill now and then for a sabbatical or a pause where there’s no agenda, just allowing yourself to pay attention to the here and now with an attitude of kindness and acceptance.”

Byrne recommends sprinkling doses of mindfulness throughout your day, beginning with just five or ten minutes of meditation a day. Simply sit in a quiet place with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed, eyes gently closed or gazing at a spot a few feet ahead of you. Breathe deeply in and out, perhaps silently saying to yourself, “Breathing in, calming the body; breathing out, calming the mind.”

Now, which habits and attitudes are you ready to give up? 

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