How Making A List Of Everything You Hate Can Make You Happier

Your don't-needs matter almost as much as your needs.

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Have you ever had trouble with making changes in your life or trying something altogether new? Well, know that you are not alone.

Oftentimes, people make resolutions at the beginning of the year to start new habits, and then feel like they've failed when they can't change everything they try to. The good news is, change can happen at any time.

What are your needs? I’m not talking about basic survival or safety needs, although these of course matter as well. Think of what you feel you need in order to be happy, and take into consideration of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, such as love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.


Once you feel you've got ahold of what your needs are, try something totally new and make a list of everything you hate. Yes, list everything you don't want, and see if that helps you make changes that have felt impossible before.

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Four reasons making a list of what you hate or don't want can help you reach goals

1. You gain a greater understanding of love and belonging

This section of the Maslow pyramid focuses on things such as friendships, family, or sexual or romantic intimacy. What are your friendships like? How is your relationship with members of your family? What kind(s) of sexual or romantic dynamics do you currently have?

2. You can build your self-esteem

This, of course, includes self-esteem and self-confidence, but it also covers achievement and respect. What is your opinion of others? What are others’ opinions of you? Are you treated with respect?

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3. It helps you seek and achieve self-actualization

This is the pinnacle of the pyramid. Self-actualization focuses on values and morality, creative projects, spontaneity, a lack of prejudice due to a sense of compassion, and a willingness to accept facts. What values do you hold? And are you living in accordance with them?


4. You can focus on and meet your needs

After taking some time to consider love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization: What do you need? Not only to live but to thrive?

For various reasons, many people have difficulty answering this. Maybe you never had the opportunity to consider your needs before now. And that’s okay. Sometimes it is easier for us to determine what we need by considering what we don’t. This may seem paradoxical, but at times, the best way to determine what the right course of action is, is by ruling out what is not. The things you don't want may be standing in the way of seeing what you actually need – and ignoring those things or hoping they'll go away actually prevents you from seeing your truth.

So what do you not need in your life? Maybe you want to cut back on time with negative or fair-weather friends. Maybe you want to scroll through social media less frequently, or perhaps you want to reduce other “time-suck” activities.

And while this concept works well with New Year's resolutions, it’s important to restate that you don’t need to wait until a new year to incorporate new things into your life: Change can happen at any time.


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Where the Law of Attraction fits into this

Some of you may ask, “But what about the Law of Attraction?” If this is something that you follow, contrary to popular belief, you will not be sent more of what you don’t need if you choose to focus on such things. Rather, you are looking at what has not served you in the past — whether these are your own actions or even the company that you keep. It is important to distinguish between taking some dedicated time to focus on the negative in order to create space for the positive and ruminating on everything that has gone wrong.

So write out a list of your “don’t-needs”. And be specific.

In doing so, you will learn more about what you do need. What you need to thrive. This can even be a stream-of-consciousness activity, where you write without any care for spelling, punctuation, grammar, and so forth. Or, if you would prefer structure, refer to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as an outline.


After you are finished writing and taking the time to look over or otherwise process what you have written, you can choose to burn the paper (safely, of course). This can be a way of releasing these negative aspects while also providing insight into what positive things could take their place. Many people find this writing activity to be a cathartic experience.

While this notion may seem negative at first blush, sometimes, we find out what is good for us based on our past experiences of what is not. Try not to lose hope. To paraphrase comedian Christopher Titus, you have not failed. Rather, you have succeeded in finding what does not work. Your past does not define you. If anything, it shows you what different things to try instead.

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Miki Anderson is a licensed clinical mental health counselor in North Carolina, with in-depth knowledge on anxiety, depression, trauma, ethical non-monogamy, and kink lifestyles.