In modern life, we don’t tend to have to spend all that much time foraging for food, or fighting for survival, which is great. We’ve got food on the table, warmth, shelter over our heads, and for the most part, long life expectancies. All we have to trade for that is eight or so hours of work a day, five days a week (for most people), and we’re golden.

What’s the downside to the modern industrialised age of plenty? We’ve got lots and lots of free time to wonder about our happiness, contentment and purpose.

In times gone by, anyone who spent time wondering about what their purpose was to be prodded into getting up and going to catch some dinner. Nowadays, it’s a necessary part of staying balanced, emotionally healthy and focused.

Depression is a modern disease, borne of envy, distraction, and obscene amounts of free time and leisure (compared to our ancestors). You need to strike out for the right kind of balance, and get rid of all the habits that are holding you back in your life.

Once you embrace the right parts of life, manage and cut away the toxic bits, and really find pursuits and people you care about, things will start to fall into place much easier. Life doesn’t have to be a struggle, we make it difficult with lifestyle choices, and allowing circumstance to overcome us.

Of course, sometimes, life really does conspire against us, but the most important response to that is always going to be avoiding becoming a victim.

Always prioritise being proactive and fixing your situation, because it’s never hopeless. Here’s the seven worst lifestyle habits that could be holding you back from true happiness.

What is Happiness?

Before you can really start striking out for something as ambiguous as happiness, you’ve got to start thinking about what happiness really is. It’s such a vast and pervasive concept, one which is sold to us from every TV screen, magazine or smartphone, that it’s altogether way too easy to forget what happiness really is.

Happiness is vital, natural, and subtle, it’s not a product, and it’s not material wealth. You can find happiness in the direst of circumstances, and you can find absolute misery in bountiful places. Happiness is a state of mind, and an honesty, which allows you to embrace life as it’s meant to be embraced, rather than trying to force it into a mould.

Happiness is an incredibly individual, personal thing. It’s never about following a set plan, and hoping you end up where you want to end up. School, university, junior role, family, advanced role, retirement, death. Where along that path are you meant to stop and enjoy happiness? At retirement? In family or university? Or during all of it?

You need to find your own personal definition of success, and cling to it, and build on it, and morph it to suit you and your life. Nothing needs to be concrete, except for your desire to live life right.

One of the biggest enemies of achieving real happiness is our habits. We all fall into habits, and they can end up becoming the chains that ensnare us, even without addiction or any stereotypically serious elements to them.

Lifestyle is Often to Blame

No-one is saying you should become Arnie, eating nothing but chicken breast and broccoli, pumping iron 24/7. It’s not about being better than anyone else, and it’s never about comparison. It’s about being the best you that you can be. How do you think a wheelchair-bound person can get up every day and work out? Not because they’re conforming to anyone else’s ideas of success, strength or beauty, but because they’re succeeding at their own.

Settling back into a lifestyle of lazy, obvious decisions, and letting yourself sink deeper into comfort and further from your goals is a lifestyle choice, and it will stop you from succeeding in the ways that you want to.

I’m talking regular binge drinking, eating terrible meals that leave you feeling rubbish for days afterwards, dating people who knock you down instead of building you up. All lifestyle problems, all correctable. Why aren’t you doing anything about it?

You see people who are morbidly obese, and you wonder why on earth they don’t just do something about it. They don’t do anything because they’ve worn the comfort groove way too deep. They’re totally trapped in their lifestyle and there’s no straightforward way for them to leave anymore. You don’t have to be like that, and you should be grateful.

Escapism

We all enjoy a bit of casual escapism now and then, whether that’s a film, video games or drinking. They’re all fun options to fill our time and give us instant gratification and short-term happiness. But what happens when that becomes everything? What happens when escapism becomes the most important thing?

Recently, in the UK, video game addiction was declared a real, diagnosable health concern, and regardless of what you think about that, it’s a terrible condition. Like alcoholism before it, spending your life reaching for a high that is never really there is a terrible and disturbing thing and taken to its extreme, that’s what escapism becomes.

When it becomes a major part of your lifestyle, you know you’ve got a problem that’s holding you back from really achieving the things that’ll make you happy. You’re never going to meet a beautiful partner or get that promotion if you’re constantly tapping away at that computer game or boozing. It forms a vicious cycle that not only hurts you, but people around you.

No one else will stay stationary with you. People develop and move on, doing more and more things with their lives, while escapism keeps you bound in one place. If your life is so terrible you need to constantly drug yourself with serotonin, you need to make some drastic changes.

Lack of Self-Care

Self-care is important in a bunch of different ways. From simply making sure you’re looking after your physical health, to nurturing relationships, to looking out for your mental health, it all adds up to taking proper care of yourself.

Failing to look after your mental state is one of the worst things you can do. It’s so important to prioritise your mental state, because once you go into decline, it can be hard to pull it back up. Just simply taking the time out to make sure you’re getting what you need from yourself and people around you is key, essentially, ensuring that people around you know when your struggling, and keeping yourself ticking over properly.

Ambition and Greed

We live in a capitalist society; it’s extremely easy to get locked into a materialistic mindset, with all your focus centring on your next promotion or new car. That’s an alluring option, with clear gratification and acumen attached, but its empty calories, it never really fills you up, no matter how much you put into it.
That’s why you need to break away from this way of thinking, it’ll never truly satisfy you and you’ll forever be chasing a phantom, at the cost of your happiness, fulfilment and relationships.

Putting It Off

Too often nowadays you hear about people saying how it’s just going to be a few more years of a job they hate, and then they’re on to something better. Or, even worse, just another ten years and I get to retire.

Don’t get me wrong, delaying gratification and sacrificing your time can be an extremely positive thing, allowing you to achieve great successes. But putting off all the things that you love and want to achieve in your life for the sake of money, or acumen? That’s a wasted life.

Toxic Relationships

One of the biggest barriers to happiness is the company we keep. Did you know we’re all the average of the five people we spend the most time with? That means that if you’re spending a huge chunk of your time with someone who treats you badly, puts you down, and pushes you away from the things that really matter to you, that isn’t just going to upset you in the short-term, it’s going to have a massive knock-on effect in your life.

You need to break away from people who don’t increase your chance of succeeding and enjoying happiness, because it’s simply not worth your time, success or mental health.

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Taking the Easy Route

Despite what I said about the dangers of putting happiness off, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t struggle. Struggling to do something meaningful, something that means a lot to you, can be incredibly rewarding and a real path to happiness, but you miss out on that when you take the easy route.

Don’t take the easy route because it promises stability and security, shoot for the things you really care about, and risk hardship in favour of an end goal that really matters to you.
If you’re interested in tracking your happiness, or learning new tricks for managing your mood, try the Analyze.Life app out.