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Seven Small Mistakes Can Sabotage Your Well-Being, Happiness and Fitness

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Everyone wants to experience an ongoing sense of joy and well-being. But when it comes to happiness, even little missteps can poison your pleasure in living.

Why is maintaining a positive outlook important to reaching and maintaining your fitness goals? Because, according to Dr. Martin Binks, Director of Behavioral Health at the Duke Diet & Fitness Center ( and co-author of The Duke Diet, "negative thinking can interfere with making healthy choices like getting started on your workout. By focusing on the positive, like that feeling of accomplishment you get after even a short exercise session, you will be motivated to get started."

What are seven common mistakes, and how can you avoid them?

1. Focusing on the Negative

Everything else may have gone right today, yet you find yourself obsessing over the woman at the grocery store who cut ahead of you in line.

Simply put, gratitude for our blessings ensures happiness. Developing an attitude of gratitude is a skill that requires conscious effort. Before retiring, list three wonderful moments you experienced during the day for which you are grateful. Or keep a gratitude journal.

2. Neglecting Our Bodies

Despite information from dozens of sources bombarding us, we fail to eat foods that nourish our bodies or to set aside time for playful exercise.

If we move our bodies, stay rested and eat appropriately, our bodies provide us with ample energy to live zestfully. A high level of physical and emotional well-being is possible only in a body that its owner consistently maintains with healthful habits.

3. Postponing Happiness

Children who ask the question "Are we there yet?" are assuming that the fun won't begin until the car trip ends. Many of us postpone enjoying our days in anticipation of the annual vacation or perhaps retirement.

Before you begin your day, ask yourself one question: "How will I show up today?" Make a decision to enjoy the miracle of being alive. Fortunately, happiness is possible at any given moment-and the moment is with us at all times.

4. Getting Even

Revenge is a dish that some of us love served hot or cold. Vindictiveness-whether executed boldly or delivered through passive-aggressive behavior-seldom satisfies. Like a drug addiction, the desire for revenge creates a craving for more.

Forgiveness is what we do for ourselves, not for the person who may have harmed us. Consequently, forgiveness doesn't have to be earned. We offer it freely to others and in the process, it lifts our own spirits. And don't forget to forgive yourself. Like every other imperfect human being, you are a work in progress.

5. Pursuing Powerlessness

Individuals who collect and recite ongoing stories of victimization are trapped in perpetual suffering. Always receiving the short end of the stick, these victims inevitably become embittered and resentful of others' happiness.

Accept responsibility for the authorship of your life story. Consider rewriting the ending of victimization stories. Recast yourself as a noble survivor. This is your life. You are the hero-script a wonderful future. Reclaim your right to have great dreams and then pursue them.

6. Overvaluing Possessions

For some, the acquisition of material possessions becomes the central meaning of life. When ownership is accompanied by a sense of entitlement, discontent is bound to follow. Jealousy rears its ugly head. Acquiring newer, better and more expensive versions of possessions eventually results in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Choose to be happy with what you own and take care of the possessions with which you have been entrusted. Above all, give to others who are less fortunate. Happy people have figured out that the greatest joy in life is not in the getting but in the giving.

7. Living on an Island

When we isolate ourselves from family, friends and community groups, we starve the part of ourselves that needs encouragement and takes strength from others. Self-doubts undermine our courage to take risks. Self-pity replaces self-respect.

Get involved. Others challenge us to grow and learn and to engage our strengths and talents. We become more capable and loving when we share our time and our gifts. Whatever our age or condition, we still possess untapped possibilities that, when expressed, will benefit others.

Your outlook on the world is an advertisement that tells others what you feel. How will you advertise yourself today? This very moment? How happy will you allow yourself to be?

Photo credit: hamed via Flickr

Carole Carson, author of  From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction, serves as the coach for the AARP Fat to Fit online community.

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