There are loads of blog posts stating things you should START doing if you want to feel happier, but I’ve actually found that STOPPING certain things helped me more.
So I thought I’d give you my advice from personal experience…
I spent years thinking “I’ll feel happier when I weigh 8 stone.” I had this weird idea that everything in my life would magically improve if I could just get down to my goal weight.
As though the day I hit 8 stone Harry Potter would suddenly appear and fix the relationship I was in at the time, give me a pay rise and create more time in each day so I could fit in everything I wanted to do with my family and friends. And tah-dah, I’d feel happier!
When I finally got down to 8 stone I can tell you that as I stepped on the scales *drumroll please* Harry didn’t turn up. Neither did Ron. Or Hermione. I mean, I would’ve settled for one of the extras who didn’t even speak – just someone who could wave a magic wand and fix everything.
So what actually happened?
Well…I stepped off the scales, felt super buzzed for about 10 minutes and then *drumroll please* got on with my day. Nothing changed. Not one single bloody thing. Being 8 stone didn’t fix everything or make me feel happier.
My point? I wasted a lot of time thinking my happiness was attached to my weight when in actual fact it wasn’t at all. I weigh a lot more than 8 stone right now and I am happy. Deeply happy. Is my life totally perfect? God, no. I have issues just like everyone else. But I’m happy at my core (if that makes sense), so it takes a lot to shake me.
These are some of the main things I learnt to stop doing over the years that helped me find true happiness:
1. Stop comparing yourself
I say this a lot. If you want to read my blog post just about this point it’s here. But seriously, if you spend your whole life comparing yourself to someone else then you’re never going to be happy.
There’s an old saying that comparison is the thief of joy. It’s true! So stop comparing your body, relationship, financial situation or anything else. Particularly if the things you’re using for comparison are on social media, because everything is staged on there!
Social media is filled with people’s best bits. All of the messy or less interesting parts of our lives don’t go on there – we only show the things we want to shout about. And if you’re comparing your everyday occurrences to someone else’s highlight reel you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.
2. Stop weighing yourself
Seriously, unless you plan on stuffing an apple up your arse and serving yourself for Christmas dinner, who cares how much you weigh?
Your value is not based on your body’s relationship with gravity. And that’s all your weight is. So why does it bloody matter?
If you’re weighing yourself because you’re trying to lose weight and want to track your progress, I don’t advise using the scales as a good indicator of progress anyway. There are too many variables. My advice is to track your progress using a tape measure…or just keep an eye on how your clothes fit over time.
3. Stop looking back through old texts/photos
Ah the old sentimental hour. I’ve been there more times than I’d like to admit. You’ve had a pretty good day, but just before going to bed you suddenly think about that old flame and wonder how things might have been if it had worked out. Then before you know it you’re deep into the messages you used to send each other, trying to remember where it all went wrong and what you could have done differently to make you feel happier.
Then you stay up until 3am wishing you could turn back time and do it all over again. You put all the blame on yourself (probably because you’re absolutely shattered by this point) and start thinking you should maybe try reaching out to them and accepting all responsibility for it falling apart.
Stop it. Stop now. A tired mind will work overtime until you’ve spun into a frenzy and convinced yourself it was all your fault. So don’t look back through old messages like this. Especially not late at night.
Why would you want to look back anyway? You’re not going that way. Move on, look forward.
4. Stop Instagram/Facebook stalking
This old chestnut kind of falls in with the point I’ve just made. So maybe you’ve spent a few hours (yes, hours) reading old messages and now you’re wondering how they’re doing these days. Or maybe you want to check if the asshole who broke your heart six months ago is as unhappy as you secretly hope they are.
Instead of realising you’re wasting your own time and should probably get some sleep, you open up Instagram or Facebook and trawl through their photos hoping to see signs they were happier when they were with you.
Don’t do this to yourself. I will slap that god damn phone out of your hand if I have to.
5. Stop believing you need to schedule in fun
“Life is shit but it’s ok because I’m going on holiday in two weeks.” I hate it when people say this kind of thing because of course their life is going to seem shit if they only live for the holidays. I mean, who says you have to schedule in fun?
Yes, work does take up a lot of time. And yes, housework is always on the to-do list. And we all fight a constant battle of spending enough time with our family and friends while trying to get everything else done. But that doesn’t mean holidays are the only time you can enjoy yourself.
I have fun every day. It’s not always rollercoaster riding/jumping into the sea/crazy antics fun. Sometimes it’s just a five-minute giggle on the phone with a friend or a few cartwheels when I’ve stumbled upon an open space. But I make sure I have fun every day because life would get pretty serious and potentially boring otherwise. And I wouldn’t be happy.
So stop waiting for those two weeks of scheduled holiday to have fun and feel happier. Go have fun right now!
6. Stop worrying what people think
People are going to judge whatever you choose to do, so you might as well do exactly what you want.
I’ve genuinely lost count of the number of people who message me saying they wish they had my confidence to do handstands and cartwheels in public. The truth is that I just love playing. And when I stopped worrying about what anyone thought I started having a lot more fun!
Besides, if Sharon from down the road wants to judge you for doing a few cartwheels in the park then she can go ahead. She’s sitting there with a bitter attitude secretly wishing she could have fun like you.
“The idea is to die young as late as possible.” – Ashley Montagu
7. Stop setting unrealistic expectations
Nothing ruins our happiness more than the expectations we set for ourselves and our lives. Have goals, sure! I love setting myself goals. But be realistic.
If you set the bar too high you’re only going to end up feeling deflated that you didn’t manage to achieve what you wanted. Whereas, if you set realistic goals then you’ll be able to smash them and feel proud of your achievement. Then you can slightly move the goalposts each time so you keep progressing.
Stop being so hard on yourself. Give yourself a chance!
8. Stop overthinking
Well, we all knew this one was coming, didn’t we?
The secret to happiness is letting every situation be what it is, instead of what you think it should be.
I wish I knew how to stop everyone from overthinking, including myself at times. I used to spend ages overthinking even the smallest things that happened in my life, but now I let most things go over my head. And as a result, I’m happy!
Sadly I don’t have a magic wand to help you quit the horrible overthinking ways. And as none of the cast of Harry Potter ever turned up after my 8 stone weigh-in I don’t think I’ll have a wand any time soon. But my advice if you want to feel happier is to try to live in the moment more. That way, you’ll have less time for your mind to start wandering AND wondering.
9. Stop believing you don’t deserve happiness
It frustrates me so much that anyone could possibly believe they don’t deserve happiness, but if you’re one of those people then I have one thing to say to you…
You deserve happiness. True, deep happiness on all levels. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. And if they try to, please think seriously about whether you want that person in your life.
Which brings me to my next point. That’s got to be my smoothest link so far…
10. Stop spending time with people who put you down
I know it’s not always easy to remove negative people from your life, but if someone is repeatedly making you feel like crap then you need to at least limit the amount of time you waste on them. Ahem, I mean the amount of time you spend with them.
Nobody has the right to make you feel like crap. Know your worth, damn it.
11. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself
And we’ve arrived at my personal Achilles heel. I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself. Maybe it’s because I became a mum at a young age. Or maybe it’s because I’m adamant my health conditions (ME/CFS and neutropenia) won’t get in my way. Or maybe it’s just who I am. Either way, I know I’m not the only one who does this.
You’re trying to be the best possible version of yourself, which is brilliant! I think we should all strive to do our best in every aspect of life. But when it reaches a point where you’re basically becoming your own worst enemy and pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion in an attempt to feel happier it’s unhealthy. So back off a little. Be nice to yourself.
Give yourself permission to not be perfect.
12. Stop wishing, start doing
How many people do you know who made their dream a reality? I’m guessing not many because very few people fully go after what they want. So many of us end up settling for a life we’re given or a life we basically fall into, and we let that flame within us die.
I wasn’t able to achieve my childhood dream of starring in a West End show because I became very unwell in my early teens and had to give up dancing for almost two years at the exact age where I could’ve potentially started applying for dance schools. But my second dream career was to be a journalist. It took me a while, but I got there. And since achieving that dream I’ve always continued working towards another goal.
Right now, as those of you who follow me on Instagram will know, my main goal is to do a handstand. I’ve always been petrified of them, but I’m working on it and getting super close! Having that spark within me keeps me happy. It gives me something to keep working towards – something that makes me feel challenged and excited.
If there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, go for it. Right now. Do it! Go reignite that spark you haven’t felt since you let all of your hobbies go when everyone told you they “weren’t cool” or that you were “too old” for hobbies.
Screw them, this is your life. Your one and only life. LIVE IT!
Bottom line – if you tie your happiness to one specific thing or person that you’re waiting for in life then you’re doing it all wrong.
Happiness is not a destination. It’s a journey. It’s something you need to keep topped up every day. Like a tan.
Clear more time for the things that make you happy.
Just a few of the things that keep me happy are spending time with my family and friends, being in, on or near the ocean, being upside down, singing, dancing, food (yes, all the food) and training to be a badass.
What makes you feel happy?