American society is corrupt. The value of obsessive, unrelenting work transmitted by U.S. culture is toxic to our mental, physical, and emotional health. In the U.S. alone, 42.5 million adults--one in every five--struggle with mental illness. Half of all adults have at least one chronic health condition, like heart disease, cancer, or obesity. And these mental and physical health concerns should come as no surprise, as the average full-time employee in the U.S. works well over 40 hours per week--more than employees anywhere else in the world.
When your focus is on working--production, output, and profit--rather than on finding meaning and excitement in activities that give you energy, like spending time with people you love, happiness becomes a distant wish. It is transformed into another commodity that you need to purchase in the form of expensive clothes, health-section-only foods, and self-help books. And that, my friends, is not real happiness--it's a clever ploy to keep you running on the hamster wheel, a productive little rodent.
To find the joy that arises naturally in being present and living in our hearts, we need to take a step back. Each of us needs to complete a self-audit and discover which behaviors add value and which actions lead us to misery.
Read the list below to discover 13 behaviors you need to stop engaging in to discover astonishing happiness.
1. Pursuing career goals at the expense of creating loving relationships with other people.
When you're on your deathbed, will you be thinking about that business you sold or the memories you shared with people you love? Don't allow your ambition to ruin your most important relationships.
2. Looking for external validation to avoid addressing painful emotional wounds.
Masking your psychological wounds with external validation doesn't make them go away; it only increases their impact. It's like building a wooden house with a termite infestation--no matter how tall your cottage becomes, the foundation will remain flawed and unstable.
3. Wasting valuable time and energy being angry at small things outside of your control.
Traffic, rudeness in the grocery checkout line, flight delays--no matter what happens, it's how you respond that matters. Life is too short to waste getting upset at things you can't change.
4. Allowing the fear of being judged and criticized to restrict genuine self-expression.
Put yourself out there. You'll receive some hate mail, but you'll also taste the nectar of freedom. Blossom into the person you truly are and people will gravitate toward your authenticity.
5. Allowing society's unhealthy and unrealistic body-image issues to make you feel ugly or ashamed of your physical appearance.
You are beautiful exactly as you are. The only reason others don't agree is because they are brainwashed and unsatisfied with themselves.
6. Getting so caught up in "doing" that you forget what simply "being" feels like.
I'm guilty of this. It's important to recognize that productivity is great, but being present and grounded in your heart is more meaningful than constant output.
7. Embracing cultural values that you don't care about, like sports or celebrities, to fit in.
Superficial conversations keep people from challenging dominant cultural narratives. Become an independent thinker instead of trying to be the same as everyone else.
8. Becoming overly attached to ideas about the future that may never happen.
Future plans are great, but you have no control over anything other than the present moment. When you get carried away into future scenarios, pull yourself back and focus on the here and now.
9. Ruminating on past events so much that they prevent you from moving forward.
At a certain point you need to realize that you're the author of your own life story. Do you want the main character of your book to be reliving the past or maximizing the present?
10. Comparing yourself with other people instead of appreciating your life.
Social comparisons create feelings of inadequacy and jealousy. Start valuing yourself and your life instead of always searching for something better--otherwise, you'll spend your entire life chasing something that you'll never attain.
11. Binging on entertainment instead of investing in your self-development.
It's OK to take a step back and relax. And you also need to spend time reflecting on yourself and discovering what areas you need to address to continue growing as a person.
12. Accepting society's racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, nationalist rhetoric and oppressive legislation.
Unequal access to resources prevents the joy of freedom and equality. Use your voice to speak up against policies that disproportionately harm marginalized populations. Silence is collusion with oppression.
13. Pretending that you aren't afraid of death.
We all do strange things to pretend we are not afraid of dying, and unfortunately, most of this "YOLO" bravado embraces behaviors that don't actually matter. Use your fear of death, rather than your denial of it, to make more meaningful life decisions.
Bringing it all together.
Nothing is guaranteed. Let go of the behaviors and values that no longer serve you and practice habits that lead to a more meaningful and fulfilling life. We all deserve happiness, but sometimes we need to stand out to find it.