Inside: For a happy life you might choose to joyfully disregard much of the wisdom du jour. Here are 9 “bad habits” that make me delightfully happy. This post contains referral links.
I prefer to leave my bed unmade until bedtime and happily hang out braless and in pj’s much of the day. I think homemade pumpkin pie makes a delightful breakfast when I’m not eating lentil stew, and I eat a bit of dark chocolate almost every day.
My kids and I text when we’re in different rooms, too lazy to get up and walk to each other, and no matter how much I believe in mindful living, I’m grateful for multitasking that makes life easier ( ex. listening to podcasts while making supper and folding a basket of laundry).
Never have I ever been interested in awakening at 5 am to get a head start on the day (and honestly, reading suggestions like this when I had little people made me want to cry!). Though I love sleep I sometimes stay up way too late reading, guilt-free, and I’m far more interested in living on purpose than in straight-up productivity.
Reading health, happiness and productivity research delights me but I take what serves me and leave the rest. I get to craft this happy homemade life of mine on my own terms.
Not every good idea needs to be followed. Not everything is for this season. For a happy life, you might choose to listen in more than heeding the crowd.
For a happy life you might need to push back against many of the ideals you’ve clung to for years. You might even choose to joyfully disregard much of the wisdom du jour.
I love pushing back against common catchphrases, fads, or wisdom du jour. Sometimes I flat out disagree with it – and more often it’s simply that I’m wired to question and wrestle to carve my own path and build a “right-sized life” that reflects my wiring, values, and goals.
It lights me up to help others do the same.
9 “Bad Habits” that make me delightfully happy ↡↡↡
In that vein, I’d love to share with you some “bad habits” I’ve picked up over the past decade that I think you might want to adopt (or at least mull over) for a happy life.
1. Lay on the couch all weekend
For years I cycled through pushing myself hard then falling ill and felt relieved when I got to cancel all commitments and read novels on the couch for a weekend. It finally dawned on me that I could give myself permission to rest without being sick. These days, I listen to my body and take weekends as needed during which my primary goal is to lay on the couch and binge on books or Netflix. Sometimes this is precisely what the doctor ordered.
Rest and productivity are tangled up together. Choose to stop all the performing or hustle that runs you ragged and sucks the joy from your life. Keep in mind that space to play or really rest actually boosts productivity and creative thinking when you’re at work. Give yourself permission to take space for your soul to rest because you don’t have to pay rent for the space you take up in the world.
2. Get angry
Anger itself is not a crime and I’d argue that letting anger simmer for too long or suppressing our emotions is more dangerous than ranting, being grouchy, sarcastic, (or sweary) at times. We often judge our emotions as bad – but they’re simply human. We can admit that a real, full, beautiful life isn’t always magical – though there is wisdom in every season – and yes, part of happiness and maturity is accepting that we also always get to choose our response.
Recently I went through a season where I was anxious and angry and worried that something was wrong with me. It hit me one day that nothing was “wrong” – I was owning my feelings about a messy season of life and advocating for myself well. I was allowed to feel angry. When I stopped judging myself and admitted that I’ve had a few significant stressors in my life, I felt calmer and capable again.
3. Be Bossy
If I can encourage one thing for you to work on this year to become happier it’s this: learn to examine and shift your thoughts because your thoughts will largely determine your level of happiness. You get to be the boss of your thoughts and life.
Other people’s opinions shouldn’t dictate how you should spend your time/strengths/money. You can break away from traditions, familiar patterns, or old habits that no longer serve you. This is hard work but hey, you’re the boss. You’ll reap amazing rewards when you show up and practice. We can invite wise people to speak into our lives and stay humble as we glean and learn – but ultimately I know I’m the expert on my life, body, and business and will not abdicate my power or responsibility.
4. Make a mess
I advocate for a slow and simple life but I get to define my simple. I’m interested in many things, happiest with a learning curve in my life, and it’s highly unlikely that I’ll stick to one career path without shifting course. My favourite mantra of all times (as a recovering perfectionist) is “make mistakes, take chances, and get messy” by Ms. Frizzle of the Magic School Bus.
I’ve learned that for a happy life I need to loosen my grip and accept that I’ll make mistakes or do things people don’t like; I need to make peace with some literal mess too in order to do my deepest work; I’ll be rejected by some and fall down, and it’s all OK. If we’re to move through comparison, perfectionism, and fear, we’ll be challenged and called to do hard things. It will feel uncomfortable and messy. It takes courage to show up real, to let yourself be seen, to share your work, forge your own path, or jump into a new adventure, heart first. And it’s worth it.
5. Leap before you look
Some of the most amazing experiences and gifts of my life have come when I went with my gut, stepped off the well-trod, safest or most logical path, and “leaped before I looked.” When curiosity became more compelling than fear and I chose to show up afraid. This goes against my nature in many ways. It is a characteristic that often bewilders me. But I am also grateful to this questioner/rebel part of my personality that pushes back against fear and status quo and continually calls me out into freedom.
Leaping before you look may not mean going on a wild adventure but simply opening up to the joy and beauty of your ordinary life. Trusting people even though you’ve been hurt before. Saying yes to love at 70 years old. Deciding to like all of yourself, not just the pretty bits. Getting rid of all the stuff you don’t want. Living with humor and compassion in a stressed-out world. Letting curiosity lead for a while.
6. Don’t always tell the truth
Using our voice and advocating for ourselves by speaking up about what we want, think, or need is clearly critical for health and happiness – no doubt about it. But we don’t always have to tell the truth as we see it. We can pick and choose when to speak up and when to walk away.
Sometimes with our kids or partner, or yup, with folks online, the mature thing is to hold your tongue and not criticize, correct, or offer your opinion. For a happier life, we can decide we don’t need to prove we’re right or argue our point home or (this one really gets me) point out the spelling mistake on someone’s Facebook meme! Sometimes kindness, peace, lifting another human up, or choosing to accept someone as they are (even if you don’t agree on all things) is the happier move.
7. Live an imbalanced life
One of the gifts of doing the work to put down strong roots of self-awareness and self-compassion is that when the winds come we tilt and don’t break. We learn to flex and bend without losing our mooring. We understand not everything needs to be perfectly balanced or managed.
Sometimes I tilt into rest and self-care, other seasons into writing or creating. There are also weeks during which I tip back into hiding. There are seasons of grief and loss and those of beauty and ease, times we tilt into plenty and times of need. But it’s all only for a season. If we’re healthy and have decent boundaries and direction then we tend to naturally return to center. We don’t control all circumstances no matter how hard we try and learning to tilt builds resilience and joy.
8. Reach for mediocrity
I spent years of my life trying to measure up and keep up, trying to jump through hoops and keep a perfectly managed home. I never took a chance or answered the call to write because I knew I’d never do it well enough. One happy day, after a season of crisis, I realized If I didn’t embrace “good enough” I’d die mired in fear. When I decided to like myself and chose done over perfect I found freedom, joy, and happiness in my mediocre life.
There’s a Swedish term, Lagom, that means “not too little, not too much, just right.” We can apply this idea creatively to our life. Consider how you might reduce stress and increase happiness by Living Lagom or “just enough”: not too much chocolate or sleep or TV, not too much work or striving for excellence. Not too much giving or gathering or dreaming without action – just enough.
9. Stop trying to live up to your potential
Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we ought to – nor will it automatically make us happy. Many of the people in this world I admire seem to care more about walking out their values than living up to their potential. FOMO or chasing all the shiny things can run us ragged – but what if we aim instead for a “right-sized life” or inspiring life vision? What if we put blinders on and say no to many fabulous opportunities so that we can say yes to our top values and priorities.
We all have gifts to contribute and living with purpose leads to health and happiness. I believe we’re designed for contribution and community. We’re uniquely gifted and differently wired and get to decide how we’ll walk out this short life of ours. Let’s choose wisely.
This is a wordy post already so I’ll make my conclusion brief. I encourage you to step off the treadmill of status quo and really think – what is it that you most want, where do your values lie, and are you spending your days on purpose to build a meaningful and happy life?
NOW WHAT? For further inspiration, you might like Getting Back to Happy, The Fire Starter Sessions or my 52 Mondays Series of Seasonal Mindfulness Journals designed to help you show up fully to life in every season. To dig deeper, visit my Happiness Resource Page, a collection of articles and resources I’ve written on the how of happiness.