What emotional habits do you engage in on a daily basis, and how are these thought patterns and emotional habits guiding you closer (or pushing you further) to joy? We’ve identified three very common emotional habits that most people engage in at one point or another that could be robbing you of your potential for happiness and contentment.
1. Trying to Deny How You Actually Feel
If you’re struggling with anxiety, anger and other negative emotions, you may try to minimize these feelings in certain ways. For example, you may convince yourself “I never really liked her anyway” if a friend mistreats you, or “I never wanted that job anyway” if you don’t get an interview after submitting your resume.
Or, when we’re in a state of emotional pain, we may do and say things that minimize or ignore the pain we’re in.
For many people, the reasons we engage in this sort of denial is because we think it makes us better people, or stronger people. But this isn’t the truth.
“The problems that arise from attempting to deny our pain are many fold,” warns psychologist Lisa Firestone, PhD, in a column for Psychology Today magazine. (1) “For one, we cannot selectively cut out “negative emotions,” such as anger and sadness, while maintaining the ability to feel joy and happiness. When we cut off our emotions, we become numb to life. We lack direction or meaning. We lose touch with our desires that could result in goal-directed behavior. We often relive our past or live out prescriptions for our lives created in our childhoods.”
In other words, by minimizing sadness or other negative emotions, we also minimize our own ability to experience positive emotions like joy.
2. Avoiding Uncomfortable Thoughts, Ideas, Feelings and Emotions
Embarrassment. Disappointment. Fear.
These are all common uncomfortable emotions that we tend to try and avoid or keep out of our lives.
But here’s the thing: That uncomfortable feeling is a signal that this is an opportunity to learn, grow and become stronger. We have to go THROUGH uncomfortable feelings in order to truly learn and expand as individuals.
Avoiding these emotions at all costs simply denies us the chance to truly grow, and in this growth is where the true potential for joy and happiness unfolds.
The next time you feel uncomfortable, step into that feeling. Ask yourself why you feel uncomfortable, and look for situations and opportunities in that moment to learn and become better.
3. Craving Ethereal Happiness
Everyone wants to be happier. It’s on the cover of every self-help book and lifestyle magazine. It’s also likely why you’re here on this website and reading this specific article!
But chasing after something - including happiness - can bring negative consequences. This projection of your mind into the future, where you think more happiness lies, takes you out of the present moment and it’s only in the present that actual joy can occur.
“The past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form,” says Eckhart Tolle. “Both are illusions. We define ourselves by what we have done in the past not realizing that we are limiting ourselves by doing so. Realize that something completely new can happen for you and change that definition. Moreover, we should stop seeking happiness in the future. It’s not something that will come by tomorrow. Happiness is a by-product of how you act in the present. It is not the end goal.”
Instead, look for moments of happiness and joy in the very present moment that’s not based on “if only” ideas of the past of “what if” ideas of the future. Seek presence, and out of that flows contentment and happiness.