5 Things That Sabotage Your Happiness

Boost your joy every day by avoiding these five happiness-wreckers.

Medically reviewed in December 2020

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Some people find happiness easier to attain than others, but it’s possible for anyone to achieve – especially if you work for it. Research suggests that three ways to get happier are: seeking pleasurable emotions, pursuing goals that engage you and searching for meaning outside yourself. On the flipside, research also shows that common daily habits can sabotage your happiness. Check out these five happiness-wreckers – and what to do about them. 

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Social Media

At least 52% of adults who use the Internet have different social media accounts, and over 936 million people use Facebook every day. But even though we are more connected to our friends and family than ever, we aren’t happier. A study in PLOS ONE found that the more that people used Facebook, the less satisfied they were with their lives. Experts speculate it could be many things: from social isolation to lower self esteem from constant comparison to others.

Help your happiness: Scale back your use of social media. Focus on real-life connections with loved ones instead of relying on virtual ones.

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Too Much Television

After a long day, do you grab a bag of potato chips and sit in front of the TV? This may bring you pleasure in the short term, but research shows that the more you watch TV, the unhappier you are. Your brain doesn’t get healthy stimulation -- and neither does your body. And if you eat while watching TV, your chances of being obese are higher.

Help your happiness: Happier people spend more time socializing, going to church and visiting others. Unwind with more meaningful activities: Get the whole family involved in making a new recipe, or invite a neighbor to take a short walk.

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Long Commutes

Nothing makes a bad day worse than a long drive home, and it can take a toll on your wellbeing over time. Conversely, a Swedish study showed that satisfaction with your daily commute can contribute to overall happiness. You may not be able to shorten that commute, but you can make it less stressful.

Help your happiness: Think of your drive as “you time” and take full advantage. Do you like schedules? Create one for your weekday commute: On Tuesdays, catch up on personal calls; on Wednesdays, catch up on podcasts, etc.

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A Wandering Mind

Do you find yourself constantly thinking about everything else except for what you’re doing at that very moment? This may cost you your happiness. A study in the journal Science found that when subjects’ minds were fully engaged in daily activities, they were happier than when their minds wandered. No wonder psychology experts say it’s so important to live in the moment.

Help your happiness: Make an effort to focus on your present experience, instead of the past or future. This can help ease stress and worry and boost your happiness. 

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Compared with Americans in 1957, today we own twice as many cars per person and eat out twice as often, according to the American Psychological Association -- yet none of this is making us happier. One reason is because research shows that life satisfaction isn’t linked to how much stuff we own. More money, more problems? Money itself isn’t the issue, the constant desire and emphasis for more of it is.

Help your happiness: Make an effort to focus on what is proven to improve your outlook on life, like helping others or spending time with people who make you smile.

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