7 Surefire Ways To Murder Your Happiness

Man, have I ever excelled at this!  I was once the World Champion.  Not so much anymore, although I still have my moments.

sadness

Have you ever woken up one day and wondered, why am I sad?  And not been able to put your finger exactly on the reason, the source of your unhappiness?

I’m not talking clinical depression.  Nor the sorrow that comes from losing something or someone you love.  But more those days when you just wake up with the Blues.

Life is a funny thing.  It responds to the energy you put out, and indeed, that’s what comes back to you, and provides the ultimate meaning of “create your own reality.”  The difference in how to be happy vs. how not to be, truly lies not in our stars.  

Am I happy now?  You bet’cha!  But like a lot of folks, I once did my part to live in unhappiness.

And these are the ways:  

  1.   Regret the Past.

This one will plunge you into shame, increase your levels of stress hormones (primarily cortisol), compromise your immune system, and even cause you to gain weight.  Yikes!

      Hamilton Beazley, Ph.D., author of No Regrets: A Ten-Step Program for Living in the Present and Leaving the past Behind, says, “When you repeatedly revisit a painful regret, you continue to experience and suffer the negative emotions generated by it.”

That pretty much says it.  And while we can surely learn from past mistakes, to wallow in them will leave us in Hell.

  1.   Worry About the Future.

Pretty much the converse to number 1.

Sadly, you can’t predict the future (unless your crystal ball is far less hazy than mine!).  And you can’t even control it, despite your best efforts.

I have an image I always bring up whenever worry starts to creep into my mind.  It’s of walking down a dirt road, and coming toward me are numerous images of bad things that can happen in whatever particular circumstances.  And what I know for true is that if 3 of those are headed my way, at least two will fall into the ditch before they get to me, and the third will most likely disappear.

I see them do so.

      As Corrie ten Boom said in Clippings from My Notebook, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

But by far my favorite saying about future worry is from Charlotte Dunhill, retired minister and dear friend, who will say, “We don’t have nearly enough data to panic yet.”

And you know what?  We never do.

  1.   Having Expectations.  Of Life or Others.

Expectations are tricky demons.  I mean, we expect the people in our lives to be decent human beings, no?  Isn’t that part and parcel of what makes us human?

Yes.  The however is that what we mean by that may be far different from someone else’s definition.

And often we have expectations that when truly dissected, cannot be met.

Life doesn’t owe you anything.  Period.  And while that sounds a bit harsh, it’s true.  Life is exactly what you make of it.

Your mate or lover or friend may be perfect for you, but unable to meet the ideal you hold.

Living without expectations means you accept reality for what it actually is.  You accept people for who they actually are.  And then you don’t miss the quiet guidance that is always available.

How freeing.  How much energy is released by not trying to force people into boxes, not constraining the life flow.

      As the Dalai Lama said, “I am open to the guidance of synchronicity, and do not let expectations hinder my path.”

  1.   Refuse to Follow Your Internal Guidance.

I know actually of no surer way to slaughter your happiness.

That soft still voice within is always there to whisper the truth into your ear, to say, go this way, not that.

And the thing is, although connected to the collective unconscious, the filter is always uniquely yours.  I.e., what may be the exact right path for one person may be the wrong way for you.  So you can’t just follow the dots that another person, religion, society says is “The Way.”  If it doesn’t fit or work for you, then it didn’t come from that voice of intuition within.

       As mythologist Joseph Campbell said, “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.”

  1. Neglect Your Health

We usually think of this in terms of physical health. And while yes, that’s where we start, it’s not all there is.

Mental, emotional, and spiritual health all play huge parts in how happy we are.

Have you ever began walking down a spiritual path, really bouncing down it, seeing all aspects of your life falling into place, and thinking, wow!  This really works!

And like someone taking meds who starts to feel better and quits taking them, you slowly but surely quit your practice.  And like that person stopping antibiotics too soon, you tank.

The more esoteric modes of health are every bit as important as that apple a day if you want to stay on track.

            As Plato said, The part can never be well unless the whole is well.”

  1.   Be Ungrateful.

So many studies have been done on the positive effects of gratitude in recent years.  And we know that being positive, being grateful changes one’s life, and one’s world.

The converse is also true.  By depreciating—being ungrateful—the negatives grow in our lives.

      In his book, Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier Dr. Robert A. Emmons describes research he carried out with three experimental groups over 10 weeks (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).  Only one of the groups practiced gratitude.

People who were in the group that practiced gratitude were 25% happier.   They were more optimistic about the future, they felt better about their lives and they did almost 1.5 hours more exercise a week than the others.

Gratitude is free.  It’s right there, for your taking.  All you need do is be aware of it.  And give it daily practice.

      As Maya Angelou once said, “This a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”

  1. Don’t Follow Your Bliss

Live by someone else’s rules.

Live the life your parents/spouse/society directs you to live.

Forsake your dreams.

Now, that’s the best prescription I know to kill the song in your heart, the dance in your step.

Yep, forging your own path may be difficult indeed.  Just ask any writer!  LOL.  There is no map.  No 12-step group.  No guide to help you connect the dots. Because they are strictly your dots to connect.

But that’s where the richness of life lies, the magic, the days filled with inspiration and soaring.  Do tough times come?  You bet’cha.  But by taking your own journey, you live a life fulfilled.

“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” Joseph Campbell

About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

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46 comments
Christoph says March 16, 2016

I usually don´t read esoteric blog articles but this one made me relect on life and my current status. Thanks for that!

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Kelly says March 16, 2016

I really wish I could “Hakuna Matata”, it’s just so hard not to worry about the future, especially with kids and everything going on in the country now. But I’m getting a decent handle on the others.

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    Susan Malone says March 16, 2016

    Love that, Kelly. Chuckling. But so true! Life is complicated, no? And I think just using “Hakuna Matata” helps!

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Kristen Wilson says March 16, 2016

This is right on Susan and I, like you were, have NAILED this one.. urgh. I still struggle, haven’t found my happy… sometimes I wonder if I am happy being miserable. I mean, I have good things, that I busted my rear on.. but things that I have no control over are killing me… and while I ‘get’ the universe thing.. I seriously do not believe that me being upset about something just brings on more shit. I don’t deserve it and I am not willing it. But damn! lol

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    Susan Malone says March 16, 2016

    Oh, I do so understand, Kristen. That CONTROL thing will surely bit our butts. But I dunno, the further in life I go, the more that energy patterns become clear to me. When I put out negativity, I just get more examples of negativity in my life. But when I see the good in something–no matter how outwardly awful it may seem–more good flows. Maybe this comes from being a novelist, and creating multi-faceted characters. None are all good or all bad, but it’s which part of the mix I choose to focus on that causes me to love or hate them. And I tend to find life working that same way . . .

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      Kristen Wilson says March 16, 2016

      Yea.. but even when I read the Secret and put everything I could into positive.. shit still happens. I’ve just determined, ‘life isn’t fair’ and ‘bad shit happens to good people’ and I’m unfortunately one of them. I haven’t given up.. but man if I am not frustrated.

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        Susan Malone says March 16, 2016

        You know, I think that’s just part of life, Kristen–shit does still happen. And I know how frustrating it can be. But like every muscle, the one to stay positive, to appreciate the things that are working in your life, grows stronger with practice. Don’t forget to go out and yell and shake a fist at the sky at times though! Feeling the real feelings, getting the emotions out, sure helps to clear your head!

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Renee Groskreutz says March 16, 2016

So just this morning, I put a sticky on my monitor that says “Eat Healthy.” I realize that if I don’t get my mind away from worry and my body healthy I can’t find success. Thank you for this post because it just proves that I am headed in the right direction.

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    Susan Malone says March 16, 2016

    Good for you, Renee! I’m SO into sticky notes to keep myself focused.

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Timothy Gagnon says March 16, 2016

Great list, and spot on as well. I lost a brother to suicide two years ago, and I still find it extremely difficult to focus on work, especially when working from home. I found that focusing on work and celebrating the little things, like a new blog comment, and just trying to stay as productive as possible help the most (oh and exercising). I would also add not beating yourself up about the past!

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    Susan Malone says March 16, 2016

    That’s a tough one, Timothy. Losing a sibling to anything is so very hard. But to suicide . . . Sounds as though you’re doing a good job in living your life–and that’s the key.

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Suzanne Rudge says March 16, 2016

Ya, I think you pretty much it the nail on the head with this one. I think everyone does this at some point in the day and I guess the key is to try and do the opposite of each thing that kills your happiness. It is like exercise though – hard work.

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    Susan Malone says March 16, 2016

    Isn’t it funny how simple isn’t easy, Suzanne. But I love doing the opposite of each thing that kills your happiness!

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Rebecca Bryant says March 16, 2016

I am an expert on murdering my own happiness. I so need to read this book.

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Sabrina Quairoli says March 16, 2016

Great reminder, Susan Mary! I have to remember to stay healthy because that really does a number on my happiness. Thanks for sharing.

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    Susan Malone says March 16, 2016

    Doesn’t it though, Sabrina! That old adage, if you don’t have your health . . .

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Jackie Harder says March 16, 2016

All excellent points. One of my favorite quotes about worry is from Mark Twain: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Worry steals your present joy. Related to letting go of expectations is letting go of the outcome. Just do what has to be done, live your life and let the rest go.

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Miranda says March 16, 2016

#3 and #4 really spoke to me. You are so right–only we are responsible for our own happiness, not our spouses, friends, or even our children are responsible for that aspect of our lives.

And, I didn’t follow my inner guide for a long time, which led me to wallow in the past, also one of your points. Now I finally know which direction I want my life to take and am following my passions, and I feel so much better and more confident. Great tips here!

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Rachel Lavern says March 16, 2016

Hi Susan,

I firmly believe all that you pointed out and that happiness is always there for us and all we ever have to do is remove the blocks that we have built against it. It is our birthright and nothing has the power to take away what is ours unless we grant them the permission. If we want to be happy, we need to stop self-sabotaging our own happiness.

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    Susan Malone says March 16, 2016

    Exactly, Rachel. And that reminds me of another adage I love: If you give other people the power to affect your emotions, it’s like putting a button on your chest they can push at any time. You go!

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Shaylee says March 16, 2016

Oh I am just fantastic at doing most of these things!! haha I’m especially bad at neglecting my health and worrying about my future. You would assume that if I were worried about my future health that I would take care of my present health but sometimes it just doesn’t work that way!

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    Susan Malone says March 17, 2016

    Isn’t it funny how worry doesn’t work that way, Shaylee! Just robs you of the present, and assures the future will be the same. I love your humor about it though!

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Teresa says March 16, 2016

Yes, this is a beautiful list and wholeheartedly agree with each point. It could take a lifetime to conquer each one but as you journey forward the happiness meter rises and rises. Beautiful read..thank you.

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    Susan Malone says March 17, 2016

    The good news is–as you so well know, Teresa!–it really is all about the journey 🙂 And you’re so right–the more you practice, the more the happiness meter rises. Enjoy the ride!

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Karen says March 16, 2016

Susan, great article. I am usually a very happy person, but have high expectations of myself and therefore others. I usually tame that, but right now, struggling with my late teen son. Praying and hoping I can let it go.

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    Susan Malone says March 17, 2016

    I don’t think there’s a bigger challenge than traversing those teenage years–for parents, especially. That passage causes you to question just about everything! And ah, letting go . . . another entire can of worms. Sending prayers your way.

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Meghan Monaghan says March 16, 2016

I think if we were all brave enough, Susan, every person would admit to having the Blues at times. It’s a tough world, so how can you not? I think back to several years ago when I lost my three beloved dogs within a year. Each loss was such a blow to my already aching heart. I still miss them every day, but just like you mentioned, I’ve been following other dreams for the past two years and it’s given me a renewed sense of joy in what’s to come. Not every day is perfect, but I know the only one who can choose happiness for me is me!

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    Susan Malone says March 17, 2016

    So true, Meghan–life brings us all enough visceral cuts to the heart that having the Blues just comes with the territory. And I love that–being brave enough to admit it.
    I am so, so sorry about your dogs. And 3 in one year. I will say, that stopped my heart, as I know the sorrow of losing them, but 3 . . . Many soothing prayers to you, and may your dreams propel you straight to joy.

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Roslyn Tanner Evans says March 17, 2016

I’m more likely to wake up and say why did this happen? I don’t tend to experience sad or worry. From early childhood, I lived each day as a brand new one & left yesterday’s behind. Love the approach you took in this post. Most write How to be happy. Your approach was much more interesting & easy to identify with.

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    Susan Malone says March 17, 2016

    Your response just embodies the Maya Angelou quote, Roz! Somehow I’m not surprised 🙂 And thank you 🙂

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Beth Niebuhr says March 17, 2016

I’m a lark and I wake up happy. It’s the middle of the night that can get to me. I start fretting about something, usually my daughter, and eventually get up to change the subject, read for awhile and go back to bed. I love your words: Gratitude is free. It’s right there, for your taking. So true. Most of the time I’m pretty positive.

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    Susan Malone says March 17, 2016

    Boy, do I know that one, Beth. As I often say, there just isn’t a positive thought to be had at 3 o’clock in the morning . . . But your prescription is the only one I know that works–get up, read, change the subject! I love that.

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Joan M Harrington says March 18, 2016

Hi Susan 🙂

Really enjoyed your post as it got me thinking about my own life….so thank you for that 🙂 It is always up to us in how we react to anything and being grateful on a daily basis has helped me the most for it makes me feel happier and happier for what I do have in my life and how very grateful I am! Exercising is another mood lifter for me as well 🙂 Love going to the gym 4 times a week as it really lifts my spirits and just makes me feel happy and strong 🙂

Great post!!

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    Susan Malone says March 21, 2016

    Isn’t gratitude just a fabulous tool, Joan! And you’re a testament to that! I love: “it makes me feel happier and happier for what I do have in my life and how very grateful I am!” You seem so happy and strong. Love this!

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Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com says March 21, 2016

Hi Susan! As you probably expect I agree with every single thing you’ve written here! But I think the one that probably trips me up the most is the one about expectations. I continue to walk a fine line between positive intentions and expectations. They are sort of the razor’s edge for me. But if I come back to “don’t take anything personally” then that seems to temper the expectation and remind me to trust the Universe that “things are always working out for me.” Thank you for these excellent reminders (as always!) ~Kathy

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    Susan Malone says March 23, 2016

    That’s a truly fine line to walk between positive intentions and expectations, isn’t it, Kathy. I have the same trip up as I walk this path. I just love the “don’t take anything personally” prescription! Thank you–I’ll try that.

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Joan Potter says March 21, 2016

Susan – I think the two biggest suggestions from those above are, for me, health & gratitude. Of course good health is helpful to my happiness, but I can honestly say that gratitude plays AS BIG A PART. I always try to find 5 things each day that I’m grateful for. It’s amazing how empowering that little practice is! Great title for your post, BTW.

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    Susan Malone says March 23, 2016

    Isn’t gratitude just the crucial element, Joan! It completely changes my mindset. And I love the 5 things each day to be grateful for!

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Joyce Hansen says March 22, 2016

Susan, you’ve touched on so many important aspects of one’s mindset. The world gives us a distorted view of what happiness should be. It becomes what we expect and why we are so disappointed. The most important thing for me is just being grateful and being open to life’s experiences.

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    Susan Malone says March 23, 2016

    I love that Joyce–being grateful and being open to life’s experiences. The key!

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leadership skills says March 27, 2016

Hi, such an inspiring post. Being grateful serves a lot of purpose in life, mainly recognizing our blessings each day and looking forward to a better tomorrow. Thanks for sharing. Great Read.

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