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Three Emotional Mistakes That Will Limit Your Happiness

Doing these things could actually make you feel worse about your life.

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Your emotions affect every decision you make. They impact your relationships, your work life, your psychological well-being, and your physical health. Studies show your emotional skills can even determine how successful you'll be.

Despite the huge role emotions play in your life, there's a good chance you don't think about your feelings very often. Most people don't, and most of us were never taught how to deal with them. Consequently, most people — even smart, successful ones — make some emotional mistakes. As a psychotherapist, these are the most common emotional mistakes I see:

1. Denying how you feel

You probably wouldn't deny that you had a cut on your leg. We tend to treat our physical wounds without a second thought. But you might deny your emotional wounds. Whether you minimize how you feel by saying, "I don't really care that I didn't get that job," or you outright deny your emotions by saying, "No, I'm not angry," most of us try to act like we're not in pain sometimes. But downplaying your emotions won't make them go away.

Many people think suppressing their emotional wounds means they're mentally strong. In reality, they're just acting tough.

It can be uncomfortable and embarrassing to admit your struggles. But acknowledging your emotions is key to making your best decisions — and it's fundamental to addressing your psychological pain in a healthy way.

2. Avoiding uncomfortable feelings

Fear, sadness, embarrassment, and disappointment are just a few uncomfortable emotions that no one wants to feel. But some people go to extreme lengths to avoid those feelings, and consequently, limit their lives.

To grow as an individual, you have to allow yourself to feel uncomfortable. And you have to experience negative emotions if you really want to experience positive feelings. If you felt happy all the time, you wouldn't appreciate it.

Every time you face uncomfortable situations head-on is an opportunity to gain confidence in yourself. When you learn that you can tolerate discomfort, you'll be more willing to face your fears and step outside your comfort zone.

3. Chasing happiness

Happiness is all the rage: Everyone is talking about all the things you should be doing right now to feel happier.

But chasing happiness backfires, and insisting that you should feel happier will ruin the moment. The idea that you aren't "happy enough" puts pressure on you to experience more joy in your life. And racing from one activity to the next, trying to force happiness, is a surefire way to feel worse about your life.

Additionally, some people are trading instant gratification for long-term contentment. Eating a second helping of dessert might make you feel better for a minute. Putting off a project so you can binge-watch your favorite show will help you avoid being bored or frustrated. But instant gratification and overindulgence will make you miserable over the long term. Self-discipline — which requires you to tolerate some level of discomfort — will help you feel happier over the course of your life.

How to Improve Your Emotional Skills

Emotional skills are like any others — you can get better with practice. But before you can improve, it's important to take stock of some of the emotional mistakes you might be making. The best news is, learning how to regulate your emotions is one of the three core factors of mental strength. Sharpening your emotional skills will help you build the mental muscle you need to reach your greatest potential.