Do you wake up in a lousy mood nearly every day and ask yourself, “Why am I so unhappy?”
Before you even get out of bed, you feel stressed and negative. The world simply does not look like a happy place in your mind.
Like most of us, you may have some legitimately difficult things going on in your life.
Maybe you’re worried about money, and that is undoubtedly stressful. Or you might have problems in one of your relationships or an issue at work.
Even though your life isn’t terrible and your problems aren’t devastating, it feels like a dark cloud follows you around everywhere, and you just can’t shake it.
My life is miserable.
Many people wake up with this feeling the moment they open their eyes. Every morning begins with anxiety, dissatisfaction, and negativity.
They can’t understand why things are so bad, why nothing is fun and enjoyable, and why they are so dissatisfied with life.
Of course, some people feel unhappy and negative because they are clinically depressed. They are suffering from an illness that impacts chemicals in their brains that affect mood.
Depression is a serious condition that requires medical treatment, so be sure you know the symptoms of depression.
But for this discussion, we’re referring to general unhappiness — not clinical depression. (Although chronic unhappiness can lead to depression.)
Do you often wonder, “Why am I so unhappy?”
Maybe you feel happiness is a random and fleeting feeling. Only when something really “good” happens in your life do you feel happy. Your happiness is totally dependent on outside events.
But we all know that sustained happiness comes from within. At least that’s what we’ve heard.
When you are in a state of near constant negativity and dissatisfaction with life, it’s hard to believe that happiness comes from within.
- How can it come from within when within you feel so unhappy?
- How can you “make yourself” feel happy when you aren’t?
It may not be possible to “make yourself” feel happy. But you can set up the conditions that foster happiness — and you can eliminate the conditions, thoughts, and behaviors that foster sadness and feeling miserable. Let’s look at these for a minute.
What causes a person to be unhappy?
If you are frequently unhappy, you may have thinking habits and life conditions that contribute to your unhappy life.
Here are 15 top reasons you create more dissatisfaction and negativity in your life.
1. You compare yourself to others.
The more we define ourselves by what other people have, how they look, or what they have achieved, the sadder we become.
The constant longing for something different and the feelings of jealousy that comparison creates will agitate you and make you feel unhappy.
How often do you compare yourself? Pay attention to this sadness and begin to drop this bad habit.
2. You dwell on the negative.
You have a bad habit of ruminating on negative possibilities or situations. We all have a “negativity bias,” tending to focus more on unpleasant thoughts, interactions, and events.
When you don’t resist this bias and allow your negative thoughts free reign, you make it increasingly difficult to feel happy. Your feelings always follow the trajectory of your thoughts.
3. You worry.
Just like dwelling on negative thoughts, worry will propel you down a rabbit hole of despair.
Worry is anxiety about a future you can’t control. You feel helpless and hopeless because you anticipate bad outcomes even when there’s no evidence of them.
Your inability to control the situations you worry about and your sense of helplessness prevents you from feeling positive about anything.
4. You’re holding on to anger.
You may have someone in your life who has hurt or offended you, and you just can’t let it go. You feel wronged, disrespected, or treated unkindly.
You think about the person or situation constantly and feel increasingly put out by it. You didn’t deserve it. It shouldn’t have gone down the way it did. They need to apologize right now.
It’s hard to feel happy when you are filled with anger and resentment. These negative feelings take over your thoughts, leading to bitterness and irritability.
5. You’re in debt.
Money worries can feel overwhelming and cloud an otherwise happy life with worry and grief.
When you’re constantly reminded that you owe money, you feel bad about yourself and unhappy with life. Just beginning the process of paying off your debt will make you feel lighter and happier.
Need help with it? Read The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness.
6. You surround yourself with unhappy people.
We are products of our environments. If you are surrounded by people who are negative and unhappy, they are going to infect you with their mood.
Identify the people in your life who are frequently unhappy, and try to spend less time with them. Seek out people who have a positive and happy demeanor and attitude.
7. You’re bored.
When you don’t have something going on in your life that is fun, engaging, or challenging, you will feel bored and uninspired. Life will feel flat and meaningless.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find something interesting to do with your time. Call a friend. Start walking or running. Join a book club.
Staying active and around other people is a great antidote to unhappiness.
8. You hate your job.
Since we spend so many hours a day at work, if you hate your job, you are spending most of your day unhappy. But you do have the power to change that.
What is it you hate about your job? Is there anything you can change about it? If not, then start looking for another job. Just giving yourself permission to look will give you a happiness boost.
9. You don’t like your appearance.
In this youth and beauty-focused culture, it’s not surprising so many people feel unhappy about the way they look.
It’s hard to feel attractive when the standards for attractiveness have been set so unrealistically high. Look around you, and you’ll notice that most people are simply average in appearance (especially compared to models and celebrities).
Make the most of your appearance by taking care of yourself, exercising, and dressing well. Look in the mirror every morning and tell yourself you love and accept yourself just as you are.
10. You don’t have a significant other.
Everyone wants that special person in their lives, the one love who makes us feel happy and complete. When you are alone in a world of couples, life can be pretty lonely.
If you find you are spending a lot of time alone or with couples, it’s time to find some single friends. Join single’s clubs or meet-ups, sign up for a dating service, join a gym where singles hang out.
And while you are looking for your true love, appreciate all of the benefits of being single.
11. You’re in a bad relationship.
Those who are in a relationship can become very unhappy if the relationship starts to sour. If you’re constantly thinking, “Why am I so unhappy in my relationship?” then you can count on your life being pretty bleak until you sort it out.
When you’re married or in a committed partnership, your world revolves around your partner and the health of your relationship. When things go south, your life feels like a mess.
You may constantly feel tense and angry or wounded and unloved. You may worry that the relationship is going to fall apart or that your partner will leave you — or that you need to leave him or her.
12. You aren’t paying attention to your health.
If you feel bad physically, it will take a toll on your state of mind.
If you don’t get enough sleep, if you are spending too many hours working, if you haven’t addressed a chronic health issue, you are going to feel depleted and unhappy.
Your physical health can impact everything else in your life, so do what needs to be done to get healthy.
13. You’re too focused on money and material things.
The longing for more money and more toys is the cause of so much dissatisfaction and unhappiness in life.
Money and things might provide a temporary boost of happiness, but then you quickly become bored and long for the next thing or a higher income.
Place more emphasis on relationships, experiences, and personal growth.
14. You have a victim mentality.
You may have had some traumatic or difficult situations in your past — situations that merited feeling unhappy and depressed.
But your trauma around those events has infected your life for years or even decades. You’ve become so attached to being a victim that you’ve forgotten how to take control of your life and create the conditions for the happiness you long for.
It may take some work with a therapist to overcome this roadblock, but you can heal and step into your own power to make your life what you want it to be.
15. You’re a perfectionist.
It’s hard to be happy when you are never good enough. You are deeply uncomfortable with your flaws and failures and can’t be satisfied until you’re perfect.
The harder you try to mold yourself and your environment into the ideal picture you envision, the more stressed and anxious you become. As you realize you can’t achieve perfection, you grow extremely unhappy and exhausted.
Self-acceptance and self-compassion are your only exit ramps away from this impossible mindset.
How do I stop being so unhappy?
In addition to eliminating conditions from your life that foster unhappiness, you can also begin to add conditions that have been proven to boost our happiness levels.
In her book, The How of Happiness, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky reveals her research on what makes people feel happy. Here are some of the happiness-fostering strategies she outlines.
1. Count your blessings.
Focus your thoughts on all of the good things and people you have in your life. Express sincere gratitude out loud or by journaling your feelings every day in a gratitude journal.
Focusing on the positive will actually change your brain chemistry and boost happiness feelings.
2. Cultivate optimism.
Actively begin to change your outlook from negative to positive. Expect good things to happen, even if you have to fake it at first.
Write a vision for yourself of your ideal life circumstances and review it regularly. Again, practicing optimism will begin to change your brain and feelings.
3. Practice acts of kindness.
When you do good things for others and see how it positively impacts them, you feel happier. You know this instinctively, but it’s nice to know research has proven it.
Take a meal to a sick neighbor. Say “Thank you” to the check-out person at the grocery store. Lend a hand to a friend who is moving.
A little bit of kindness goes a long way in lifting your mood and increasing your feelings of happiness.
4. Nurture your relationships.
Who are the people most important in your life? Who would you like to get closer to?
Begin to cultivate and actively work on improving your relationships.
- Learn how to communicate better.
- Resolve any lingering conflicts.
- Take more time to spend with these people.
- Learn how to listen actively so they feel heard.
- Tell them how much you appreciate them.
Research has proven that having close and healthy relationships is the number one predictor of happiness.
5. Relive happy times mentally.
Just thinking about happy events from the past can make you feel happier.
Instead of letting your “negativity bias” run rampant, choose to think about what has made you happy in the past.
Take some time every day to review past joys either in your mind or by writing in a journal.
Try to remember and feel the feelings you experienced during those joyful times.
6. Practice forgiveness.
When we hold on to a hurt or a grudge, it’s like a thorn that continues to poke us and undermine our joy.
Nothing good comes from staying angry or hurt. Let it go. Forgive. Move on.
Even if the offending person hasn’t apologized or accepted responsibility, don’t allow their lack of consideration to infect you.
You have the power and the choice to forgive regardless of how others behave.
7. Practice your religion, spirituality, or personal growth.
Research has shown that people who are active in their faith or personal growth are happier.
They are focused on improvement and something bigger than themselves that removes them from focusing on ego-based concerns.
An essential part of personal growth is recognizing that happiness is an inside job. When you actively pursue your personal evolution, you come to this realization sooner than others might.
Is it OK to be unhappy?
Everyone is unhappy from time to time — and often with good reason. Life is fraught with conflict, disappointments, and challenges. Being unhappy about these situations is natural and is often a motivator to make positive and necessary change.
You don’t need to feel guilty about being unhappy or pretend to be happy when you’re not. Social media, in particular, can make you feel like you’re the only person who doesn’t have an amazing, joy-filled life. And this makes you feel even worse.
However, remaining unhappy for weeks or months is not healthy. It can lead to inertia, loneliness, and depression. Use your unhappiness as a clue to what’s going on in your inner world (or outer world) that is stealing your joy.
Then take action to address the root cause of your discontent. Practice some of the strategies outlined above to begin to turn your mood around and get unstuck.
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When you’re unhappy with life, you can make changes.
If you find yourself in a state of constant unhappiness and dissatisfaction in life, begin the work of eliminating unhappiness fostering conditions and implementing the strategies for feeling happier.
Keep a journal of your efforts and rank your level of happiness (1 is very unhappy and 10 is very happy) every day.
As you become skilled at “reconditioning” your life, you should see a dramatic improvement in your happiness.
Let’s start a conversation about feeling frequently unhappy. What has been your experience with long-term unhappiness? How have you moved past it?