How many articles have you read to help you make good, healthy changes to your life? Do you read optimistically to help your growth? It’s all good, I know I read about self-development every day and I seek to learn something new that both reinforces my choices and challenges me. I constantly aim to improve.
“All I know is that I know nothing.” — Socrates
Socrates states that the wisest men admit that they don’t know it all.
Learning is free. Learning is limitless. I find absorbing knowledge fascinating. People don’t just stop learning. You may finish college and stop studying officially, but it doesn’t mean your brain stops absorbing information — you just choose what you consume. But the brain consumes regardless.
The problem starts when you lose control of what your brain consumes. That’s when the media manipulates the masses with whatever they want you to see. That’s when you lose control of your thoughts, your mind, and eventually, your feelings.
So you eventually realise you’re unhappy and you want to change. You want to feel good and you set out on a new project to improve your quality of life.
You’re pumped with energy and motivation. You feel great already, you’re optimistic that this will work. You dive in, full of hope.
But it is easy to let go of a few rituals here and there when you feel good. You haven’t felt worse than happy for a while and you wake up and think you don’t need to take all your steps in your morning routine, or that you can let go of one of your new habits because you don’t think it’s making a difference.
You can allow yourself to slack in some areas and be a little lazy just this once.
That’s the beginning of the slippery slope that alcoholics and drug addicts tell themselves when they want to start using again. I recently watched a vlog by Stephen Hilton — a producer married to awesome vlogger Laura Clery, about how he fell off the wagon after many years of sobriety simply because he let go of a few daily rituals he didn’t think he needed to follow anymore because he was happy. And just like that, his life crashed. In his vlog, he says consistency is key. Happiness really is a journey. He learned that the hard way.
So here’s a small list of things of the must don’ts to avoid failing on your journey to happiness.
#1 Forgetting Gratitude When You’re Happy
Do you know how many people say never forget to feel grateful when you’re sad? Well, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to forget to feel thankful for what you have when you’re happy, too.
Some people say they don’t need to remind themselves all the time what they feel gratitude for because they feel it constantly. Well, if you don’t make a point of thinking about it, naturally you will start thinking about it less.
That’s why it is suggested by many — Earl Nightingale, Rhonda Byrne, Oprah — to write down all the things you’re grateful for every single day. It is to boost that happiness and joy at the abundance that exists all around you.
Keeping that journal is a good visual aid to remind you what a great life you have even when you are already happy — and that’ll just put you in a better mood anyway.
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#2 Making Many Changes at Once
I must admit I have made this mistake and I quickly failed. It got all too much. The feeling of change is exciting, I understand, but doing too much can be almost anxiety-inducing simply because you’re having to adjust and remember all the new changes that need to be made at once. I got to a point where I felt overwhelmed, and then I kicked myself if I forgot to do one thing. It all defeated the main point — I no longer felt good about my new life.
I had to “give myself a break from self-love” — how does that make sense?!
If I am having to tell myself to take a break from lifechanging habits to improve my mental wellbeing, then I am not doing something right. Instead of making lots of changes at once, I suggest making one change a week (or an amount of time you deem reasonable) and adding one on at a time.
Building habits can take a while and when you do too much at once it doesn’t feel like a habit, but rather a holiday or a short-term project. You have to incorporate each new change into your already existing lifestyle, replacing each bad habit with a good one, but slowly.
Another cliche saying — slow and steady wins the race. Again, that saying exists for a reason, surprise surprise!
I felt much more positive about making each change at a time, and it was much more doable for me. This is what I did:
Week 1: Getting up earlier consistently to gain some time to myself.
Week 2: Establishing a good morning routine.
Week 3: Testing out a good working time (for me, it’s between 1 and 3 PM)
Week 4: Walking 5K a day (starting with 3K and slowly increasing distance)
Week 5: Loose diet changes.
Before I knew it, my whole day-to-day routines had completely transformed and I felt damn good.
#3 Slacking For More Than 2 Days
Now, I get that life is busy and routines can be disrupted. When I had family round I no longer had the time to myself I normally had to work etc, and I chose to spend time with my family instead. But I made a point that every other day I’d do at least one hour of work while they were around. They understood and were happy to see me making such an effort to keep up my new writing habit.
I love walking, but I now walk and do my affirmations and list my thanks while I walk with my son. So, when the weather is bad and I don’t feel like dragging us outside in the thunderstorms, I crave going out for a walk even more the next day.
But a few times I haven’t been out for a walk for 2 days running and by the time it got to the third day I considered not going out again, and found excuses.
That is the start of the slippery slope — once you slack, it’s easy to let it go altogether and lie to yourself by saying you’re too busy, or it’s raining, etc. I forced myself to go on the third day and felt glad I did as soon as I put on those hiking shoes.
It’s the same with any habit. By the time you let go of something twice, on the third day you feel more relaxed, you don’t think it will change much, and you deceive yourself. Next thing you know, you’re back to square 1 and wondering why nothing you did worked. It’s because, as AA says with their 12 step sobriety programme — it is a constant journey. It is a lifestyle. Like brushing your teeth, but for your mind.
And that leads me to the next point.
#4 Not Giving It Enough Time
According to scientists, it takes an average of 21 days to form a new habit — good or bad.
It takes a lifetime to keep it.
Most changes will display results to you within 30 days — but they won’t always be big. You may not earn that big paycheck you have been visualising in the 30 days — if you do, let me know how that manifested! The Secret says this is possible — and I believe it is if your mind really believes it is.
But it’s hard to change a mind so quickly, which is why many people don’t believe in it. When you first start out “living happily” you will be tested, and many fail — an argument with a loved one, a bad scene at work, a bad day that only gets worse, etc.
You must persist even at those times. If I start thinking negatively I change the subject in my head immediately (without suppressing my feelings, of course), and it comes easily to me most of the time, but only because I built a habit of it.
But I guarantee there will be progress if you stick to the basic rules and give it time. Mental and physical. For me, my relationships started to shift; I stopped sleeping so badly; I started losing weight; I had a much more positive outlook on life. I let go of the grudges I held for years for people I wasn’t even in touch with anymore, and I didn’t hate the world so much.
And that’s the goal, right?
#5 Rigid Habits
There will come a time when routines will change. Working hours, kids, events, vacations, etc. It is easy to give up some habits when it gets busy like I said above. But people sometimes forget the option to simply adapt your rituals. Is your morning routine constantly interrupted by the kids waking up?
Make a point with your spouse that you need this time, or wake up earlier, or shorten your routine, split it up throughout the day, anything that might be possible.
Trust me — as I type this my son is on the monitor wide awake, having woken up 40 minutes earlier than usual. But I still got 30 minutes to drink my coffee and write down some notes. If he carries on consistently waking up earlier, I will have to adapt my own routine.
And that’s OK — if it wasn’t him, something else would at some point force me to manage my time differently — there is no need to be resentful because the things causing me to change my timings are things I love. I chose to utilise my time with everything I have daily (my family, my work, running the house, etc) your time is your time, and if managed well by yourself, adaptions should not be difficult nor negative.
You’ve got this.
If only I could put you inside my head to show you my emotional progress. I write about all this because it works. I am a romantic, I won’t lie, but that’s because my inner-self is at peace, even when the outside world is not. I won’t let all the misery affect me because that’s the point of happiness — you must self-preserve especially when you see the lack of love outside. And knowing what not to do can help you establish what you want to do to maintain happiness.
Let me know what works, and good luck.
Previously published on medium
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