8 Things Holding You Back From True Happiness

No matter how different we may appear on the outside, we all posses the same ultimate life goal: happiness. Regardless of the path we choose to achieve this goal, most of us must face down one giant roadblock: ourselves. The great news? In this age of glorifying busyness and increasing productivity at all costs, the key to removing this obstacle to happiness lies not in adding items to our to-do lists, but in eliminating them. Here are eight things you should release in order to live a truly happy life.

1. Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

There’s a reason behind why windshields are enormous and rearview mirrors tiny, right? Humans aren’t meant to focus intently on what’s behind them when there exists a vast and wondrous road ahead. Feelings of regret and disappointment about the past inevitably influence the person you are today. However, when you direct your focus solely on those feelings you restrict your ability to fully embrace happiness. Stop looking backward. Cease gazing at the road behind you and pondering how different life might have been. Keep your eyes forward and choose to immerse yourself in the happiness of now.

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2. Unrealistic Expectations

One of the greatest lessons of adulthood is learning to manage expectations. Even if you view it as setting yourself up for success, when you stop imposing unreal expectations on others and yourself, you simultaneously kick to the curb expectation’s perennial sidekick, disappointment. Full happiness arrives when you cease entering situations expecting a specific outcome and instead arrive with an open mind. Joy appears when you let go of preconceived notions and embrace the vast possibility of what could be.

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3. The Opinions of Others

Do you constantly worry about how others perceive you? Letting go of those thoughts is vital to igniting joy. Put an end to constantly looking around you and focus your energy within. Choose to spend time you’d have squandered wondering what others think and instead acknowledge how you feel about your actions. If you’re proud of decisions you’ve made, there’s no need for anyone else’s stamp of approval. Ask yourself what you could accomplish if you channeled the energy you’re wasting worrying about other people’s opinions toward moving confidently down your chosen path. Growing too invested in what others think is the ultimate thief of happiness and joy.

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4. An Obsession With Youth

From advertisements to Instagram, we’re bombarded with the message that aging isn’t OK. Also implied is that if we allow ourselves to age naturally we’ve given up. Spoiler alert: The lucky among us will eventually grow old. There’s no fighting or stopping the march of time. No miracle pill exists to return us to the sleek physique of our 20s. In addition, the happiest among us wouldn’t swallow that pill if they could. The truly happy squeeze every drop of enjoyment out of each year lived and look forward to the decades ahead. Happy individuals realize, when they accept aging as part of life’s process, they're gifted with wisdom and experience.

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5. Negativity

This may seem the obvious answer, yet it’s the most challenging for many of us to execute. Whatever we choose to focus on is exactly what we attract into our lives. If we view our glass as perennially half full, then that’s precisely what our world will become. Make up your mind to see the silver linings. When you slip toward speaking using negative terms, consciously choose to rephrase. Decide that not only will your glass always be half full, it also will be refillable.

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6. Stress

A small amount of stress can be a positive thing. Stress motivates. Situational stress (such as that over performance) propels us forward and incites us to do our best. Problems arise, however, when stress escalates to such a level that it manifests in both physical and emotional symptoms. When cortisol levels (aka stress hormones) become too high, our bodies experience inflammation, weight gain and heart disease. When stress skyrockets for a prolonged period of time, happiness falls prey to depression. Acknowledge stressful life situations, approach them carefully and consciously, work through them and let them go.

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7. Excuses

Taking responsibility for choices in life is one of the secrets to experiencing true happiness. When you lead a blame-focused life, you convince yourself you’re justified in constantly feeling resentful or slighted. Excuses are a way of legitimizing the actions you take versus what you know you should have done. When you let go of excuses and accept responsibility for your actions, you’re reminded the entirety of your existence is within your control. You possess the ability to create change and to effect happiness in your life.

8. Emotional Baggage

All of us have had bad experiences. Many of us have endured tremendous trauma. No matter the variety of baggage you carry, it’s important to pause, peek inside and invest time exploring the contents of your emotional suitcase. Once this process is complete, in order to fully embrace happiness you must decide to release these issues permanently. If you can’t do it on your own, seek the help of a therapist. It’s crucial to choose to approach all things, from work to relationships, with a clean slate. Carrying past negative experiences into new scenarios isn’t only limiting, it extinguishes happiness.

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What Do YOU Think?

What are some things that you need to let go of? Are any of them on this list? What else would you add? What other things have you found that makes you happier? Share your wisdom with others in the LIVESTRONG.COM community by adding a comment below!

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