If you really want to cultivate happiness, say goodbye to these 10 destructive habits

Chasing happiness can feel like running after a mirage on the horizon. You think you’re getting closer, but somehow it always seems just out of reach. 

Trust me, I’ve been there—spinning my wheels, wondering why that sense of contentment kept dodging me.

We all have our moments when we feel like we’re our own worst enemy, right? It’s like there’s a part of us that’s hell-bent on sabotaging our own happiness.

And let’s be real—some of the habits we’ve picked up over the years aren’t doing us any favors. 

But what if I told you that by kicking these habits to the curb, you could start making room for more happiness in your life? 

That’s right – it’s just a matter of making small changes that can lead to big improvements in your mood and outlook.

Ready for a change? Let’s dive into 10 destructive habits that need to go so you can welcome the happiness you deserve.

1) Dwelling on the past

Have you ever caught yourself staring out the window, lost in a sea of “what-ifs” and memories of days gone by? 

Yeah, I’ve been there more times than I can count. It’s like my brain has this annoying habit of replaying every little mistake or missed opportunity on a loop.

But here’s the kicker—constantly thinking about the past is like trying to drive a car while only looking in the rearview mirror. You’re bound to crash and burn, or at least miss out on what’s right in front of you.

Letting go of past regrets and disappointments is tough, no doubt about it. But clinging to them is like lugging around a suitcase full of bricks; it’s only going to weigh you down and make the journey toward happiness a whole lot harder.

So  start unpacking those bricks. It’s time to forgive ourselves, learn from our experiences, and then let them go. 

Because, believe it or not, that lightness you’ll feel without all that extra weight—it’s the beginning of finding your happy place.

2) Comparing yourself to others

Scrolling through my social media feeds not too long ago, I’d see snapshots of other people’s lives—exotic vacations, perfect relationships, career milestones—and it felt like everyone had their life together except me.

One evening, I was mindlessly flipping through photos of an old friend’s recent island getaway, and in a flash of self-awareness, I caught myself feeling smaller and smaller. 

It suddenly hit me —these comparisons were stealing my joy. It was like I was measuring my behind-the-scenes against everyone else’s highlight reel.

The truth is, the comparison game is a battle you can’t win. There will always be someone with a better job, a bigger house, or a flashier lifestyle. 

And here’s the real kicker: chasing those superficial markers of ‘success’ won’t bring you any closer to happiness.

So, I started focusing on my own path, celebrating the small victories and setting personal goals. 

True enough, the more I concentrated on my journey and stopped eyeballing everyone else’s path, the lighter I felt. 

My point is, happiness isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Embrace your own definition of happiness, and watch how your world changes.

3) Neglecting self-care

You might not realize it, but self-care is a fundamental cornerstone of happiness. In a society that glorifies busyness and productivity, taking a moment for yourself is often brushed off as indulgent or selfish. 

But here’s something you might not know: neglecting self-care can have real, tangible effects on your well-being.

Research has shown that chronic stress, which can stem from failing to take time for self-care, can alter the structure and function of your brain. It affects areas like the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, which play a role in mood regulation and decision-making. 

Essentially, when we don’t prioritize self-care, we’re making it harder for our brains to process emotions and stay balanced.

So, when you skip that morning run, forgo your meditation session, or pass up on a healthy meal because you’re “too busy,” remember that you’re depriving yourself of brain health support. 

4) Ignoring your emotions

In the same way, ignoring your emotions is going to take its toll on you. 

We’ve all done it, right? Smiled through the pain, shrugged off hurtful comments, and pushed down the anger. We think we’re being strong, keeping it all together. 

But here’s the raw truth: bottling your emotions never ends well. They fester and brew under the surface until one day, boom—they explode.

The hard truth is that part of cultivating happiness is facing the messy, uncomfortable, and sometimes ugly tangle of our inner lives. 

It’s about acknowledging our feelings, giving ourselves permission to feel them fully, and then, most importantly, working through them.

When we start to listen to what our emotions are trying to tell us and deal with them head-on, that’s when we begin to heal and grow. It might not be pretty—it’s not supposed to be—but it’s necessary. 

So let’s stop pretending we’re fine when we’re anything but. It’s time to get real with ourselves if we ever want to find lasting happiness.

5) Overcommitting yourself

people who have low self worth behaviors If you really want to cultivate happiness, say goodbye to these 10 destructive habits

How about saying yes to just about everything and everyone? 

By trying to be everywhere and do everything, we spread ourselves too thin. And that’s not sustainable. 

It’s hard to be happy when you’re overextended, period. That’s why it’s essential to learn the power of a well-placed ‘no.’ 

Setting boundaries and protecting your time isn’t just about keeping a schedule manageable; it’s about giving yourself the space to enjoy life and engage in the activities that truly make you smile.

So next time you’re faced with an invitation or request that doesn’t light you up, take a deep breath and remember that it’s okay to politely decline. Your future happy self will thank you for it.

6) Neglecting your relationships

It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, isn’t it? We focus on our to-do lists, our careers, our personal goals—often at the expense of the people we care about most. 

Here’s a gentle reminder: our relationships are precious treasures that require care and attention.

Neglecting these connections doesn’t just leave us feeling isolated; it can erode the very support systems that are crucial for our happiness. Human beings are social creatures by nature, and we thrive on genuine connections with others.

Think about the last time you reached out to a friend just to ask how they were doing, or when you spent an afternoon with family without distractions. These moments of connection fill us with warmth and remind us that we’re not alone in this big world.

7) Letting fear dictate your life

Ever turned down an opportunity because there are tons of what-ifs swirling in your mind? Maybe you didn’t go for that job interview, take that trip abroad, or even ask that person out for coffee. 

I get it. Fear has this sneaky way of slipping into the driver’s seat and steering us right back into our comfort zone.

And it’s not just the big stuff. Sometimes, it’s those everyday choices—the ones that seem inconsequential but add up over time—where fear holds us back

“Don’t speak up, you might say something stupid,” or “Don’t try that new hobby, everyone will see you’re a beginner.” These are little statements that keep reinforcing that fear.

Newsflash: everyone feels fear. It’s part of being human. 

The trick is not to let it be the boss of you. Because every time we give in to fear, we say ‘no’ to the possibility of happiness that comes from growth and new experiences.

Think of all the amazing things you’ve already accomplished—didn’t they all start with a bit of fear?

The adrenaline rush before the leap is natural.  So let’s acknowledge the fear, give it a nod of recognition, and then proceed anyway.

8) Taking life too seriously

Okay, I know responsibilities are important. I know how we must all behave like the dutiful adults we are. 

But really, if we take it all too seriously, when do we get to feel the joy? 

Think back to when you were a kid, splashing in puddles or laughing until your belly hurt. There was no worrying about tomorrow’s weather or whether your giggle sounded weird. You were just in the moment, having a blast.

Let’s channel our inner child more often. Dance in the rain, sing in the shower at the top of your lungs, or have breakfast for dinner (pancakes at night, anyone?). Life’s too short not to play with your food or wear that funky hat just because it makes you smile.

By infusing our days with a little silliness and laughter, we lift our spirits and remember that happiness often hides in those light-hearted moments.

9) Procrastinating on your goals

Procrastination is the arch-nemesis of happiness, and it’s high time we called it out.

We’re all guilty of it—telling ourselves we’ll start the diet next Monday, we’ll work on our business plan tomorrow, or we’ll pursue that hobby when we have more time. 

The thing is, time is the one thing we can’t get more of. The clock is ticking, and every moment spent in procrastination is a missed opportunity for fulfillment.

Here’s the deal – every time you say “I’ll do it later,” you’re not just delaying a task; you’re postponing your own progress. And deep down, you know it. That dream isn’t going to chase itself, and those aspirations aren’t going to materialize out of thin air.

So here’s the kick in the pants you might need: start today. Not with a grand, sweeping overhaul, but with one small step. 

Break down that goal into bite-sized pieces and tackle the first one right now. Because the truth is, happiness is found in the doing, not in the waiting.

10) Ignoring your personal values

Finally, the most crucial thing to remember is to stay true to your personal values. 

The world is a noisy one for sure, and the noise can so easily drown out who we really are at the core. Our internal compass. 

And if we let it, we risk our happiness. 

Because happiness is the result of living a life that’s aligned with your values. 

Neglecting or compromising on what you hold dear for the sake of convenience or to fit in is like building a house on a shaky foundation. It might stand for a while, but it’s vulnerable to the slightest storm. 

Conversely, when your life reflects your true self, there’s a sense of peace and authenticity that no external circumstance can shake.

So take a moment to reflect on what’s truly important to you—not what someone else has told you should be important, but what resonates with your soul. 

Final thoughts

As you say goodbye to these ten destructive habits, remember that it’s not about perfection; it’s about progress.

It’s about choosing, each day, to take actions that align with joy, peace, and fulfillment. The road won’t always be smooth—there will be bumps and detours along the way—but each step forward is a step toward a happier you.

So, take a deep breath and embrace the change. Reflect on your journey often and celebrate the small victories. 

Remember, happiness isn’t just about feeling good; it’s about making choices that lead to a full and vibrant life.

Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.

Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.