Happiness can be difficult to define. This is because it tends to look different for different people.
Unhappiness, on the other hand, is usually very clear.
We all know what unhappiness looks like and how it feels. Being unhappy sucks – and not just for you but for those around you as well. When you are unhappy it has a ripple effect that impacts all aspects of your life. This includes your loved ones, who often suffer the secondary effects of your bad mood.
Now, it is important to remember that there is a big difference between feeling unhappy and being depressed. Unhappiness is a temporary situation that is often controllable. Depression is a change in your mood that you can not control, change, or shake. It is completely normal to feel down or depressed when dealing with loss or facing difficulties in life. However, when these feelings become overwhelming or begin to impede your ability to live the way you prefer, it may be a sign of depression.
Symptoms of depression occur most of the day, nearly every day and last for an extended period of time. It is important that you speak with your primary care doctor if you think you may have depression. Left untreated, depression can be life-threatening.
Symptoms of depression may include:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken VERY seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide or crisis hotline immediately.
Unhappiness is a more mild and temporary condition that can be more easily controlled. Like depression, however, there are signs and symptoms associated with unhappiness. In fact, there are common factors that are found among people who are consistently unhappy.
The list below includes some common habits of unhappy people. Chances are you will find a few of these habits in your own daily life. While they may not cause you great distress, they may be hindering an opportunity for even more happiness. Read through the list of habits and the ways that you can change them. Applying these tips to your own life is not guaranteed to make you happy but it will help you to invite more happiness in.
How To Be Unhappy
Aspire to Perfection
There is this unexplained obsession with being perfect that has taken over society. It is as if people believe that everything has to be ‘perfect’ for them to be happy… But what exactly is perfect? All too often we create an unrealistic image of what life should look like based on the things we see in the media or the highlights we see on social media. This is not reality.
When you set the bar too high the only thing you are going to achieve is a loss of self-esteem and a feeling of failure. It is time to accept that perfect doesn’t happen, it doesn’t exist, and it is not a realistic goal.
How to Change This:
You must first understand what your view of perfection actually involves and why you think it will make you happy. Do you see perfection as a nice house? A certain career? A person, place or thing? Once you see what it is you are longing for you can begin to question these desires and compromise with yourself. Do you truly need a million dollar mansion to be happy? Ask yourself, “will the mansion really solve all my problems?” Chances are it will not. Instead try asking yourself, ‘What in my life is perfect (to you) right now?’ ‘What am I happy with at this moment?’
You must give yourself credit for all the things you have accomplished so far and there are others around you that probably long for what you have. When you accept that nothing is perfect it becomes easier to accept what you already have as ‘perfect enough’ and begin setting realistic goals.
Tell yourself regularly that you are proud of the things you have accomplished; grateful for all that you have in your life, and accept that you are doing the best that you can.
Set realistic goals for yourself that are focused on your own happiness, not what you believe happiness is in society, magazines, or media. Taking time to reflect on what you ‘need’ as opposed to what you ‘want’ will help you to see that perfection is an illusion that truly doesn’t exist.
The Big Bully Mindset
It is an unfortunate fact that media and society have not caught up to the truth behind happiness. What we see, read, and hear has a huge impact on how we think, whether we are aware of it or not. It is because of these false ideas that we tend to have a Bully Mindset inside of us that easily takes over our thoughts and tries to break us down.
Hand-in-hand with our obsession for perfection, we tend to talk ourselves down on a regular basis. It may not be a conscious act. In fact, most of the time we are probably unaware that it is even happening but living in a sea negative thoughts is the fastest way to sink the ship.
How to Change This:
The good news is, despite the fact that it takes time and effort, this is one habit you can break. That is because it is all up to you and requires no outside help what-so-ever. So how do you do it? Well, you start by bragging. Yup, you read that right. Next time you are out for a party or event and someone compliments you, simply accept it. When asked what you do, or what you have been up to lately, brag a bit. There is no need to go overboard but pointing out your achievements to others is a great way to feel good about yourself.
Another step in breaking this bad habit is to replace all of your negative thoughts with positive ones immediately. Every time you notice that you are thinking something negative replace it with something positive.
For example, I had a co-worker that annoyed me to no end. Each time she would come over to my desk I found myself immediately thinking ‘Oh Great, What drama is she here about now?‘ This started every interaction we had off on a negative note. I took a look at what I was doing and decided it needed to change. Not so much because I wanted to like this woman but because I want to be in control of my thoughts and I want to invite positivity into my life. These types of thoughts allow negativity to sneak in, and often times they quickly take over other areas. The next time this co-worker came to my desk I stopped myself from those negative thoughts and replaced them with a compliment. ‘That’s a nice sweater she is wearing.’ or ‘She did a great job on her presentation yesterday.’ I began to share these thoughts with her and I discovered something very interesting; not only did my negative thoughts about her disappear altogether but our communication actually improved. We did not become best friends but we were better able to work with one another.
Months later while our work group was out for a few drinks to celebrate a success, she confessed to me that she had suffered from depression and low self-esteem. She thanked me for being kind and treating her with respect. She explained that many others in the office hadn’t and she expressed genuine appreciation for my kindness. She told me that it was partly because of my listening and encouragement that she felt better now than she had in a long time. I felt amazing; changing my thoughts had helped change someone else’s life, without any intention what-so-ever.
Constant Crushing Comparisons
I am not sure where this need to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ originates from, but it is hurting people more than it is helping.
So many of us suffer from this constant need to compare ourselves to others. Comparisons of any kind will not get you what you ‘need’ in life, in fact, it may be the opposite. When we are constantly comparing ourselves to others we are not taking note of what we currently have, nor what we truly need. This is a very common behavior and it occurs daily whether we are aware of it or not. We compare jobs, houses, clothes, physical attributes, shoes, relationships, social status, even our children with other people around us. Through these constant comparisons, you are beating yourself up and breaking yourself down. You are failing to recognize all the things you do have in your life because you are blinded by what everyone else has in their lives.
How to Change This:
In order to change this destructive behavior, you are going to need to constantly remind yourself of all that you have to be thankful for, and replace it with another, more positive behavior.
You should begin with comparing yourself to no one but yourself. When you feel envious of others look at all the things that you have accomplished in the last year, two years, ten years, and compare yourself to that. Even if you are struggling more now then you were five years ago chances are you have learned more and gained more knowledge over the time.
Do not look to others for fulfillment, look within yourself.
Another replacement to practice is to be kind. Volunteer, give someone a compliment or lend a helping hand. When we help others and are kind to others, we tend to be easier on ourselves. It may also help you in other areas, when we realize that there is always someone who is worse off, just as much as there is always someone who is better off than we are, we start to appreciate all the wonderful things we do have in life. If people who have less than you can be happy and thankful, so can you.
The Then and When Complex
So many people spend their lives stuck in either the past or the future instead of living in the moment. When you are focused on the past, the good old days, or the what ifs you are missing out on the memories you could be making right now. The same goes for the future, when we live our life planning for tomorrow we are doomed to wake up and realize that today has passed without action and tomorrow is always a day away.
How To Change This:
This is an important habit to break. Unfortunately, it is not an easy one. We all love to relive our youth and get lost in our memories but there is a fine line between reliving or fondly remembering and ‘dwelling’. The same goes for planning the future, it is important to have a plan but it is important that we do not waste today thinking of tomorrow.
So how do you find balance? Many different ways.
If you are the type that is stuck in the positive aspects of the past, it is imperative that you assess what it is that you are avoiding now. Once you look at what you loved about that time and what is lacking now you can start incorporating that missing aspect into your current life. Perhaps it was your close-knit group of friends or the adventures you had. Whatever the source, you have the choice to make it part of your current reality. It may look different or feel different than it did back then but you can still enjoy it. Perhaps you will even enjoy it more.
If you are the type that is stuck in the negative aspects of the past or the what ifs, it is important that you learn to let go and accept that what if is nothing more than an excuse. When we break the chains that bind us to the past we can finally be free to live in the moment. Accept whatever negative thing happened as a lesson and use it as fuel to move forward with your life right now. Take note and avoid making the same mistake again. Chances are, once you let go of the what ifs, the mistakes or the regrets you will realize how much stronger it has made you in this moment.
For those who are caught up in planning the future, you must realize that while having a plan is a positive thing, it is not written in stone. Make a plan, write it down, create a timeline if you wish, but accept that things will change and enjoy them when they do. If you are the ‘planning type’ then use that to your advantage right now and plan your day, plan ways to enjoy your life at this moment, and allow happiness to take you where it will. Vow to create your plan and reassess it every six months, making necessary changes that suit the situation you are currently in.
Obsessing Over Image
The teenage girl inside all of us is always curious about what other people think. It is when that curiosity begins to control our actions that this behavior becomes a bad habit of unhappy people.
How to Change This:
There is a Dr. Seuss quote that reads, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” This became my personal motto many years ago, and I have never been happier.
The constant need to know what other people think is not something that is only common among high-school kids. In fact, business, blogs, and social media sites are built on this very foundation of insecurity, they bank on it – literally.
The constant concern with what others will think about us, the way we look, or the things we do puts extreme limitations on our lives. When you are always thinking about what others think you are far less likely to try new things and step outside the box you have created for yourself in your own mind as well as the minds of others.
The truth is, there are a few truths when it comes to what other people think. No matter what you do there are always going to be people who have something to say about it, people who don’t agree with it, and people who just plain don’t like you. Don’t let the thoughts of others become your reality, do what you want because you want to. Secondly, odds are the way people are interacting with you, the way you feel they think of you, is probably more a reflection of themselves and what is going on in their own lives or a manifestation of your own insecurities. We get so personal regarding other people’s actions that we tend to act like mind readers. Why should you even care what someone else thinks about you or what you are doing? If it is making you happy, if it feels right, what they think should not matter. It sounds simple because it is!
Chaos Through Created Complications
Life is stressful, that is a fact that cannot be changed. Although, chances are if you were to consider the amount of stress in your life with an open mind you would find that a great deal of it is self-created. This may sound harsh but much of the things we stress about are created by us alone, and not even worth the effort we waste worrying.
How to Change This:
I saw a great picture the other day that said: “If you can change it, there is no reason to worry about it. If you cannot change it, there is no reason to worry about it.” How true are those words when you really think about it? How much time do we spend stressing about things that we do not need to? How often do we get ourselves worked up for no reason at all?
In modern life, we have this overactive worry gland inside us that causes us to create complications that aren’t even there. We do this by taking on too many tasks at once, wasting worry on things we cannot control, and trying to please everyone all the time. In order to change this habit, we have to simply let go and let be.
Worry is a lot like an exercise bike, you feel like your moving but you’re not getting anywhere.
When you are feeling overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done, let go and delegate tasks to someone else. When you are constantly worried about something, let go and realize that it will either change or it won’t (see the quote above). When you are stressed about pleasing others and you are creating problems where there are none (this is especially common in relationships) let go and please yourself. If there are issues you have with another person, simply ask and don’t try to work it out yourself. Whatever it is… Let it go.
Not all of these examples are habits of ‘unhappy’ people, but allowing them to become routine and not making a conscious effort to change them is likely to lead to unhappiness in some aspect of your life. Even people who consider themselves happy and fulfilled will find they have a number of these habits. It is not something to dwell on or feel bad about but rather, a direction to focus your energy and efforts for improvement.
Until Next Time…
Be the happiest person you can be.