For most of my early twenties, I was deeply unhappy. It was only when I embarked on the path of meditation and mindfulness that this started to change.
One of the most pivotal moments of my journey was spending time at a monastery in Thailand.
Here I found myself surrounded by people who had renounced all their possessions, had no money, and relied on food donations from kind locals to get by.
I remember thinking, how can they be so happy?
It didn’t make sense. In terms of what society defines as “success,” they didn’t have anything.
Yet I couldn’t help but see that they had something most of us spend our lives seeking…
I wanted to understand what people like these men in orange robes do to be so joyful and fulfilled, regardless of their external situation.
After years of studying the habits of happy people, I’ve found that people who are truly fulfilled never waste their time on these 10 things…
Think about the person in your life who complains the most.
Are they happy?
I already know the answer. Because tons of neuroscience research shows complaining is bad for us.
The more we complain, the more we tend to think negatively, and so, the more unhappy we become.
For example, a 2004 study published in the International Journal of Sociology explored the Polish culture of complaining and its effects. It found conclusive evidence to suggest that regular complaining lowers your mood and decreases optimism.
This is because every time you complain, your brain rewires itself to form a habit – which explains why many people can’t seem to stop complaining.
Jon Gordon, the author of the book “The No Complaining Rule,” explains that to become happy, we must turn complaints into solutions. This shifts our perspective to seeing the situation as positive rather than negative, allowing us to make positive changes in our lives.
2) Reading the news
Another thing that is scientifically proven to lower our mood and increase negative thinking is consuming too much news.
One study by the University of California examined the effects of consuming news relating to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. They found that participants who consumed six hours of news a day were nine times more likely to feel stressed than those who limited their news consumption to minimal levels.
Therefore, you will never catch happy people wasting their time watching the news or scrolling through news websites (known as doom scrolling).
If you don’t want to avoid the news altogether, you can seek out positive news snippets instead. There are many dedicated new sites that only publish feel-good content, such as the good news network.
It’s not just news scrolling that happy people don’t waste their time on. You’ll also never catch them doing this…
3) Endlessly scrolling social media
While social media indeed has its perks, spending too much time on it can seriously hinder your productivity, mental health, and mood.
Interestingly, when I look back at my social media habits, I can see the times I was the most unhappy were when I spent hours scrolling social media each day.
And my most happy experiences in life? Social media was certainly not something that occupied my time during these occasions!
But don’t just take my word for it.
Science backs it up too. Such as this Canadian study from 2017 found that students who spent over two hours a day on social media were significantly more likely to experience low moods.
So if you want to be as content as a monk, delete your social media apps – or at least set a time limit on them!
4) Regretting the past
One common habit among happy people is that they tend to live in the moment.
You won’t find them complaining about things that happened in the past, whether it’s the person who cut them off in traffic yesterday or the ex who broke their heart five years ago.
Happy people are focused only on the here and now. They understand they cannot change what has happened, so they don’t waste their time or energy thinking about it.
The same way that they don’t do this:
5) Worrying about the future
When unhappy people think about the future, their thoughts are along the lines of…
- What if I lose my job?
- What if my partner breaks up with me?
- What if I can’t afford to pay my mortgage?
Unhappy people don’t look to the future with positivity. They dread it.
As a result, they often find themselves trapped in a web of anxiety where their minds create elaborate “what if” stories.
They also trust the process and know they are equipped to face whatever comes their way, good or bad.
6) Feeling sorry for themselves
Similarly to not pining over the past, happy people don’t waste time wallowing in self-pity. If something doesn’t go their way, they dust themselves off and try again.
It’s all to do with perception.
You see, most people see challenges and failures as something terrible happening to them. They willingly take the victim role and say, “Bad things always happen to me.”
Not happy people.
Happy people see failures as opportunities. They know in every negative experience lies a lesson that will help them grow and evolve.
So instead of wasting time wallowing, they look for the lesson by asking themselves, “Why did it go wrong? What can I do differently next time?”
7) Spending time with energy vampires
An energy vampire is a person who zaps your emotional energy.
You know that “Debbie-downer” friend who you always feel depressed after spending time with?
Yeah, that’s an energy vampire.
Energy vampires are everywhere – I’ve yet to find a workplace without one. But happy people understand that negative people can bring them down, so they avoid them.
It’s all to do with setting boundaries.
- Stop eating lunch with that coworker who constantly complains.
- Cut phone calls short with that family member who tries to pull you into their negativity.
- Say NO to spending time with anyone who drains your energy.
The only person who can make you happy is you. And that means you are responsible for protecting your energy and mental health.
Happy people know this, so they don’t waste time dealing with energy vampires.
8) Getting involved in drama
Unhappy people love to waste their time on drama; in fact, they thrive off it, especially if it is someone else’s drama.
People are so unhappy with their lives that seeing other people struggling makes them feel better. This is why so many people are addicted to watching soap operas.
However, happy people are already content with themselves, so they don’t invite drama into their lives.
As a result, they:
- Tactfully avoid pointless arguments and conflicts
- Rise about petty people
- Don’t let the mistakes or incompetence of others stress them out.
Speaking from personal experience, once you adopt a drama-free life, you will wonder why you wasted all that time before on pointless theatrics. Ahhh, the peace!
9) Comparing themselves to others
People who are happy and fulfilled have healthy self-esteem. They feel good about who they are.
They are also clear on where they are heading, so they stay focused on their journey rather than looking at what others are doing.
Plus, they redefine success for themselves, so you’ll never see a happy person comparing how much money they make with their peers.
To them, money and material possessions are less important than health, freedom, and happiness, things they are abundant in.
10) Trying to make others like them
Not only do happy people not compare themselves to others, but they also don’t care what others think of them.
Their self-worth is high enough that they don’t need to seek validation from external sources.
Happy people also enjoy their own company. They have done the inner work to be able to sit with their thoughts and emotions.
Because of their solid relationships with themselves, happy people don’t care whether people like them or not.
What’s more, they make decisions based on what they want, not what they think will please others or make them look good to society.
If happiness feels impossible for you right now, know that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Happiness is a choice.
Sure, you are not consciously choosing to be miserable. But you’re likely unconsciously repeating habits, behaviors, and thought patterns that keep you in a place of unfulfillment.
Still, the good news is if you identify with any of the above habits, you’ve already taken the first step toward a more joyful future.
With this self-awareness, you can begin to make the necessary changes to free yourself from negativity once and for all. Good luck!