I used to think that living a more joyful life was a game of addition, one that meant I filled my time with enriching activities, like trying new classes, learning yoga, and reading every self-help book in print.
While there are many practices and new things we can try that will enhance our well-being, one of the biggest keys to living more joyful, awesome lives is to be willing to let go of specific mindsets, patterns, and perceptions that, when released, leave us feeling happier and more peaceful.
Here are 7 things happy people remove from their lives.
The spiritual text “A Course in Miracles” says love holds no grievances. It’s a reminder to release negative thoughts that keep you from feeling peaceful.
We all have grievances: Someone acts in a way that is manipulative or does something unfair, and we complain about him or her in our mind for days. Being willing to release grievances doesn’t mean that we pretend the other person is a saint, but rather, that we don’t let his action ruin our day; we let it roll off our back.
By reminding ourselves that love holds no grievances, we can choose to accept that the other person has acted in a way that is unfair, but we’re not going to hold that story and resentment in our hearts for months or years.
After all, when you hold onto resentment, it’s ultimately you who ends up with negative thoughts.
2. Unwillingness to change
If we want our life to change, we have to change. We can’t cling to our perceptions, patterns, and behaviors and expect our life to be different. As Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
For example, if we’ve been single for years, but we’re unwilling to try online dating, it would serve us to give it a shot. If we’ve fought with a family member for years, we can’t approach that relationship the same way and expect it to be different.
Instead of criticizing that child who never does anything right, try complimenting him. Instead of nagging our romantic partner, we can choose to focus on his positive qualities. Instead of thinking there’s no way to find a better job, we can open up to new possibilities; maybe we move or change industries.
The point is that something new has to occur for any change to happen. And it’s a constant thought in the back of the minds of truly happy people.
3. Limiting beliefs
A limiting belief is any negative thought we continue to think that doesn’t serve us. Some common ones are: “I’ll never get out of debt,” “There are no good men in this city,” “I’m too old to change careers,” “There’s no such thing as loving relationships anymore,” and, “I’m not good enough to be a [fill-in-the-blank].”
Limiting beliefs tend to be hyperbolic in nature, using words like “never,” or making broad generalizations as to why something is an impossibility. They fill our lives with no’s and keep us from reaching our purpose.
We must be willing to let these limiting beliefs go, as they are holding us back from doing truly great things. Even when our current state of affairs suggest that they are, in fact, true, it’s essential to our happiness that we remove these beliefs from our thinking.
We can shift, and instead, think: “My friend is in a loving relationship, so it’s possible,” “Lots of people change careers and make it work, so why can’t I?” or, “I’m working at my craft and getting better and better at it every day.”
Life is full of surprises. Every yes we believe is a possible relationship or situation that we invite into our life. From every yes comes a new adventure, a friendship we could never have imagined, or a talent we didn’t know we had. When we let go of limiting beliefs, doors open and our lives change.
4. Victim mindset
When we complain, people commiserate with us; we use our negative life situations as a tool for bonding with others who are similarly negative. Further, we receive sympathy. Poor you! You’re sick! Your partner left you! Oh, what a shame! You deserve better!
Like children, when we have a victim mentality, we overdramatize our pain as a way of receiving attention. While the attention feels good, it doesn’t serve us because it keeps us in a state of helplessness.
We must be willing to let go of our victim mindset, and instead, choose to feel empowered. Rather than dwelling on something negative, we can shift our mindset to something much more positive.
For example: “I’m sick, but I’m getting better every day,” or, “My relationship ended, but only because I’m going to meet someone even better.” It’s only when we feel empowered that we can make real changes in our life.
5. The past
The past is gone. Let it go. What good will it do to carry it around? How will it serve us to continually replay the past, bringing it up in conversations, and keeping feelings of resentment, anger, and sadness in our hearts? That will only lead to physical sickness, stress, and depression.
Instead, we can choose to forgive and release the past. And one way to do that is with meditation. This helpful meditation will help you stop lamenting about a hurtful situation or relationship that you can’t get over:
- Sit upright in a comfortable position, either in silence or with soft wordless music in the background.
- Imagine a white light entering at the top of your head and slowly filling your body with light. Feel it pass through your neck, arms, chest, belly, legs, and feet. As it passes, imagine that it is clearing out resentment or anger that you’re holding.
- Repeat the following mantra: “The past is gone, and I release it.”
- If there is a particular person whom you have negative feelings towards, end this meditation by imagining that the light is surrounding that person. Say in your mind: “I forgive you, and I send you love. I am willing to forgive and release our past.”
The happiest people are the ones who let go of the past easily. It doesn’t mean that they don’t go through hurtful and unfair situations, but rather, they refuse to hold on to the pain. We can choose to let it go, not for the other person, but for ourselves.
6. The thought that the present moment should be different
He shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t be here. This person shouldn’t be in my face right now, making requests. I shouldn’t be sitting in traffic. I shouldn’t have to be on this line; it’s so long! In our minds, we constantly fight the current moment, wishing it were different.
All that brings us is frustration! We can choose to let the moment be exactly as it is. We can think, “Well, he just said something mean to me. Oh well, there are lots of mean people,” “So what? While I’m in traffic, I’m going to make the most of the time I have and listen to an empowering video, or, “This line isn’t moving. So what? Is it really that big of a deal?”
Being mindful means we give up fighting the present moment. It doesn’t mean that we pretend it isn’t happening, but rather, that we accept it.
7. Criticism and self-judgment
When we become aware of the negative voice in our mind — the one that tells us that we don’t look good enough, don’t have the right car, or a house that is big enough, or if only our thighs were a little smaller then we’d be happy — we suffer.
Sadness comes as a result of the thoughts we think. We can choose our thoughts, just as we choose the clothes we put on in the morning.
When the critical chatter in our mind starts up, turn it around: “I’m beautiful just as I am! My thighs are fine! My house is perfect as it is; so what if it’s not as big as my friend Susan’s!”
When we release negative thought patterns and beliefs, our life shifts.
We attract more positive and healthy relationships. We try things we would never have imagined we could be successful at, and we find that even when we are in a less than ideal environment, we are able to keep our peace. And all of those things make our life much happier.
Jessie Leon is a freelance author whose work has been featured on YourTango, Elephant Journal and Evie Magazine. She covers relationships, self-help, and lifestyle topics.