As the year draws to a close, many of us can pick out at least a few unhealthy thought processes, feelings, and behaviors that held us back in 2022. But it’s never too late to untangle an unhealthy cognitive or behavioral cycle.
Here, I’ll talk about two ways to leave your self-defeating patterns where they belong – in the past.
#1. Stop sabotaging your happiness by chasing things that are out of reach. Be happy with what you have.
Many of us sabotage ourselves when we think we have to have material things to be happy. For example, if we already have a fully functional iPhone 12, why do we feel the need to own the latest version?
Part of this has to do with “scarcity bias”. Scarcity bias is the tendency to overvalue things to which we have limited access and to undervalue things that are easily accessible and available to us.
While scarcity bias played an important role in keeping us safe in our evolutionary past, it serves little purpose in today’s age of consumerism and choice overload.
According to a study published in Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, a certain amount of money is required to live a happy, fulfilled life (eg access to education, health care and basic living standards). But beyond that, higher incomes do not necessarily correlate with happier lives or guarantee happiness. Chasing rare goods can, at best, only lead to fleeting moments of happiness
Here’s a better path to uncovering a deeper level of satisfaction with the life you have:
- Schedule time for simple pleasures. Try to take a break from the competitive aspects of life and pursue some simple pleasures like gardening on a sunny day followed by lunch or dinner with a close friend.
- Spend time with people who make you happy. While “me time” is important, isolation is not. Spending long hours alone can lead to spirals of negative thoughts. Instead, find people to hang out with who are comfortable with themselves. Take part in joint activities to open new avenues of joy. It can be as easy as going for an evening walk with a new or old friend.
- Schedule a daily “happy hour.” Happy hours don’t always have to mean drinks and appetizers. You can simply mark a “happy hour” in your daily calendar where you do whatever you need to do to decompress and relax. For example, you could take your dog for a walk while carefully avoiding technology.
#2. Let go of people-pleasing tendencies and overcome your need to be liked by others.
Many of us drive ourselves crazy worrying about other people’s expectations of us. We end up going the extra mile to please others while compromising our own needs and wants.
If you tend to put people on a pedestal at the expense of your own well-being, try some of these tactics to break the cycle:
- Reevaluate others’ expectations of you. Learn to be okay with subverting people’s unrealistic expectations of you. While this may seem daunting at first, it is important to develop this skill to let people know the value of your time.
- Learn to say no. If you want to have healthy relationships where you are valued as much as the other person, you need to know when to say no. Take time for yourself and your hobbies and don’t wear yourself out by succumbing to the pressure of others. Ignoring your need to occasionally say no, even to people you love and respect, will damage your self-esteem and make you resent those people who interfered with your personal time.
- Manage your need for constant validation from others. We tend to think of people-pleasing behavior as a selfless act. However, in reality, the motivation to constantly please others comes from the need to be seen as perfect. While validation from others is a good ego boost, it is essential to understand that it is only temporary and can often cause more harm than good. It’s important to be okay with letting go a little and thinking about whether being there for a certain person is the only thing that makes you feel good about yourself.
Breaking unhealthy patterns of thinking and acting is easier said than done. But there’s no time like the present. Make the new year your time to finally let go of the things that are hindering your personal growth.