We are not robots. That’s a good thing because that makes every single engagement we have with anybody beautifully unique. However, it also means that we are sometimes bothered by things that shouldn’t really bother us at all.
How do we move past these things? How do we not let these things bother us and affect our days?
Today, I want to share the best tips to no longer be bothered by stuff that shouldn’t bother you at all. I’ve asked others to share actual examples in order to provide actionable tips that you can use right away.
- How to not let things bother you (6 tips)
- Closing words
This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!
As a quick disclaimer: obviously, there are things in life that SHOULD bother us. I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t be bothered by anything anymore after reading this article. That’s just nonsense. Everybody faces hardships, we lose the people we love, we sometimes fail, we get sick or injured, etc.
These are things that naturally bother us, and that’s just a logical reaction. In these cases, being bothered, sad or stressed is a good emotional reaction to have.
Instead, this article is about the things that bother us that can be prevented. The things that bother us that eventually end up being pointless and could have been avoided altogether.
How to not let things bother you (6 tips)
Here are 6 tips that you can use right away that will help you to not be bothered by pointless stuff anymore.
1. Nonreaction is not weakness but strength
Sometimes, our own reactions to things that bother us only result in more annoyances. This is something that my granddad really thought me when I was young. Remaining silent is more often than not a better method of dealing with annoyances as opposed to speaking up.
There’s a reason why people don’t speak all their thoughts. We try to filter our thoughts in order to not make us say stupid, naive or hurtful things. This filter normally keeps us cool, calm and well-informed. However, when we are bothered, we sometimes forget to use this filter.
What my granddad taught me is that remaining silent is almost always a sign of wisdom.
- Remaining silent keeps you from engaging in pointless discussions, arguments or gossip.
- Remaining silent helps you better formulate your own opinion based on what others say.
- When you start venting about the things that bother you, you have the tendency to exaggerate things a bit, which will only further increase your irritation (more on that in the next tip).
Stephen Hawking said it quite well:
“Quiet people have the loudest minds.”
My granddad never went to university or something, but he is one of the smartest and wisest people I know because he understands how powerful silence can be.
Another great example of how to not let things bother you comes from Allen Klein. I asked him to share his beautiful example of how nonreaction allowed him to not be bothered by something.
Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle once said, “Nonreaction is not weakness but strength.” That is the exact technique I used to head off a major argument with one of my best friends.
Years ago, when I was writing my first book, The Healing Power of Humor, I stopped socializing with my friends. I had a book contract to write 120,000 words and a six-month deadline to complete the work. Having never written a book before, the project seemed daunting. I had no idea how long it would take to complete. For months, I did not call or contact any of my friends. As a result, after the manuscript was completed, one of them wanted to meet me in a coffee shop.
There, he read me a long list of why he never wanted to see me again. As I recall, he had over sixty items on it.
I was stunned by his breaking-up our long friendship, but I also realized that nearly everything he said was true. I didn’t return his calls. I didn’t send him a birthday card. I didn’t come to his garage sale, etc.
My friend was extremely angry and wanted me to defend myself and fight back, but I did the opposite. I agreed with most of what he said. Moreover, instead of being confrontational, I told him that anyone who had given so much time and thought to our relationship must really love me. Instead of adding fuel to a volatile situation, I put what he said about me in neutral. I didn’t get angry or become defensive.
P.S.: My friend and I are good friends once again and frequently joke about “The I-Never-Want-to-See-You-Again” list. Now when either of us do something that irritates the other, we call out what the next number might be on the list…and laugh.
2. Don’t exaggerate the things that bother you!
Here’s one thing I often notice when people get bothered by something: they start to exaggerate every little thing that bothers them. Here are some examples:
- What happened: The food arrived a little late at the restaurant and it was a little cold already? The exaggerated version: The service is terrible and all the food was disgusting!
- What happened: It rained a little on your way to work. The exaggerated version: Your entire morning was shit and now the rest of your day is ruined.
- What happened: Your flight got delayed on your way to a holiday. The exaggerated version: The first day of your holiday is messed up and your entire planning is useless now.
Everybody does this occasionally. I do this too. But I try my best to limit it as much as possible. Why? Because exaggerating the negative things in our lives usually makes them bigger in our heads. Before you know it, you will have convinced yourself that your exaggerated version of the events is really what happened!
And that’s when things start to have a bigger effect. At this point, you’re not just bothered anymore. You sincerely embrace a mindset of skepticism and negativity which will keep you from feeling happy. Some people exaggerate really simple stuff (like bad weather outside) to a point where they feel like a victim from this unfair situation.
It’s very important to not let it get this far.
That’s why you need to objectively reflect on the things that bother you. If the current weather outside is bothering you, try not to exaggerate it into something bigger (“my whole day is ruined”).
3. Be optimistic instead of pessimistic
Did you know that optimists are generally more successful and happier in life? A lot of people don’t realize this as they choose to be pessimistic by default instead. These people often don’t like being called pessimists and refer to themselves as realists. Do you recognize these people? Maybe you recognize yourself here?
The thing is, if you’re a pessimist, you will often allow yourself to be bothered by things that shouldn’t really bother you. Here’s a quote I always love to think of:
A pessimist sees the negatives or the difficulty in every opportunity whereas an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
— Winston Churchill
A pessimist will focus on the negative aspect of things, which results in a higher likelihood of being bothered by stuff. Don’t believe me? This was actually studied in the Journal of Research in Personality. The study found that pessimism and stress are highly correlated with each other. That’s one of the reasons why I believe that positivity is one of the pillars of happiness, as discussed in this in-depth article.
The truth is, whether you focus on something positive or negative is a choice. You often make this choice unconsciously, but that doesn’t mean you can’t influence this process. I’ve actually written an entire article on how to be a more optimistic person.
Here’s a great example of an online friend of mine. Hannah, a business coach focused on women, shared her example with me. She explains how she remained optimistic in a difficult situation and how she didn’t let things bother her.
A couple of years ago I went backpacking for 6 months, about 6 weeks in I got to New Zealand on the third day I went surfing, fell off the board and broke my ankle in two places. I was travelling alone, on a bus tour aimed at adventure sports and hiking and I was on crutches.
It most definitely could have ruined the trip, in fact the majority of people around me assumed I’d be jumping on the first flight home. But, having planned the trip for the 2 years prior, I wasn’t going down without a fight. I carried on travelling around New Zealand without being able to walk. I redefined the trip, I saw it as an opportunity to learn how to ask for help – which has never been my strong point – and enjoy the company of the new people around me.
While I missed out on a lot of experiences, I felt such a great appreciation for the compassion my fellow travellers showed me (who I had to rely on for everything from carrying me up stairs, cooking my food, helping me shower), for the friendships I built…and a week later I managed to badger the hospital into taking off my cast and switching it for a moon boot. I ended up limping off the edge of a platform to do the bungy jump I had been so excited to do when planning my trip.
4. Don’t assume the worst when something bad happens
Sometimes, when someone does something that bothers us, we naturally assume that their intentions were to hurt us. I have to admit, again, that I do this myself too. When my girlfriend calls me out for not doing something I said I would, my first reaction is to think that she just wants to hassle me.
If I then decide to speak out my first reaction (and not use my internal filter first as discussed before) then this will surely bother both myself and my girlfriend.
A much better thing to do is to think of other reasons why other people do the things they do. A good method to do this is to just ask yourself the question of Why? Why does my girlfriend feel the need to call me out? When I truly answer that question, I will come to the natural conclusion that it’s not because she wants to hassle me. No, she’s just trying to maintain a relationship in which we can trust and build upon each other. At this point, I’ll know that this situation should definitely not bother me.
That’s why it’s very important to not just assume the worst when something bothers you.
This example comes from Lisa Yee, who teaches people how to live a happy and healthy life. I asked her of a specific example of how to not let things bother her, and she brought up this very actionable example.
What happens when you’re driving and someone cuts you off? I used to get super upset at the other car and I would yell and scream profanity. In my mind I thought, “You could have killed me you idiot!”
Now, it’s different. When I’m in my car and someone cuts me off I think, “I hope you get to wherever you need to go safely.” I have changed my perspective to not immediately assume the worst when something bothers me.
There is a chance that the driver who cut me off just got a phone call that a loved one is in the emergency room somewhere and they are trying to get there as fast as they can. Their wife could be going into labor. Their child could have gotten hurt. We don’t always know why people do what they do and just as we want to err on the side that makes us the angry victim, we must acknowledge the other side that makes us the compassionate human.
I think that last sentence perfectly encapsulates the lesson here: instead of assuming the worst and playing the angry victim, we often have a choice to be a compassionate human being instead. This way, we embrace a more positive mindset that will keep us from being bothered by these events.
This is another great example of how happiness can be a choice!
5. Embrace the power of humor as a coping mechanism
- 50% is determined by genetics
- 10% is determined by external factors
- 40% is determined by your own outlook
I hope by now that it’s clear that this article is about the 40 percent that we can influence. Our personal outlook can be influenced a lot if we learn how to not let things bother us. The final tip on how to do this is to embrace the power of humor. It turns out humor is a great coping mechanism when dealing with things that bother us.
This final example comes from Angela, who wanted to share her experience of how she used humor to counter a thing that could have bothered her.
My name is Angela Warner. I am an independent insurance agent. This requires knocking on a lot of doors that are strangers to me. I receive a plethora of responses from very kind and welcoming, to rude and dismissive.
When I knocked on one specific door when returning for a scheduled appointment, I was met with a cleverly worded sign that I was not to knock and if I did, ‘waking sleeping baby’, that I would ‘be cut’. It actually made me laugh. I went to my vehicle and created a reply with my phone number on the bottom. I thanked them for the giggle, applauded their creativity in the face of being new, and very tired parents. Lastly, I offered to meet them, and buy them dinner at their choice of location, when convenient for them.
I received a call about a month later, had a nice dinner with these new young parents, and sold them insurance.
6. Journal about the things that bother you!
The last tip I have for you is to journal about the things that bother you. More often than not, journaling allows us to step back from our irrational annoyances and reflect on them more objectively.
Just grab a piece of paper, put a date on it, and start writing down the things that annoy you. Here are a number of benefits of doing this that you’ll notice:
- Writing down your annoyances forces you to confront them objectively since it’s less likely you’ll exaggerate when writing it down without having to persuade someone into agreeing with you.
- It allows you to better deconstruct the issues without getting your thoughts distracted.
- Writing something down can prevent it from causing chaos in your head. Think of this as clearing the RAM memory of your computer. If you’ve written it down, you can safely forget about it and start with an empty slate.
- It will allow you to look back at your struggles objectively. In a few months’ time, you can look back at your notepad and see how much you’ve grown.
The truth is, people often start journaling when they are in a difficult situation. Even though writing down your thoughts might sound silly, it can have a direct effect on your mentality. Do not underestimate the power of writing down your feelings!
I want to mention here that I’ve been tracking my happiness for over 6 years now. What does this mean? It means I spend 2 minutes every day to reflect on my day:
- How happy was I on a scale from 1 to 10?
- What factors had a significant effect on my happiness?
- I clear my head by jotting down all my thoughts in my happiness journal.
This allows me to constantly learn from my own happiness. By looking back at my happiness journal, I can see what bothered me every day and how I dealt with it at the time. By doing this, I am able to reflect on different methods on how to not let things bother me.
And I believe you can do the same.
There you have it. These are the 6 tips that I’ve found to work best when trying to not let things bother you.
- Not reacting at all is often the best thing to do.
- Stop exaggerating the things that bother you.
- Be optimistic instead of pessimistic.
- Don’t assume to worst when something bad happens.
- Embrace the power of humor as a coping mechanism.
- Journal about the things that bother you.
If you have another tip that you want to share or want to provide a different opinion, I’d love to hear all about it! Let me know how you feel in the comments below.
Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 6 years.