Writer and psychologist Sarah Hansen believes that unhappiness comes in many shades of grey. Here are 48 reasons which she thinks make you unhappy, and her suggestions on how to open the mental blinds and let the sunshine back in.
1. Don’t worry
Worry creates inner turmoil. It’s like a rocking chair moving feverishly, but going nowhere. Worrying doesn’t create action, it freezes you so you are unable to think clearly and make changes to ensure the negative outcome never happens. Your energy would be better utilized in changing things that you can control, and letting the rest go. Bobby McFerrin sang it simply enough, “Don’t worry! Be Happy!” The lack of worry can certainly create happiness!
2. Stop trying to control everything
At times, people seem to believe that they stepped straight out of a superhero comic book. They believe that they can control everything very well and things will just turn out exactly what they planned. What a burden to carry! You would certainly need superman’s strength to pick up that weight. However, the reality is that we don’t have the ability to control anything else other than ourselves. Once you make peace with this, you find the pressure is off and you can start to enjoy the scenery of the journey, instead of plotting the impossibility.
3. Don’t hold grudges
Holding a grudge has about the same logic as drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. You are harming yourself by carrying all of that negative energy. Let the bitterness go… for your own benefit. The person who criticized you is probably having a great time without giving you a second thought, while you waste your life sending them death rays with your mind.
4. Stop thinking that everyone should play by your rules
News flash: the world doesn’t live by your rule book. The sooner you accept this, the happier you will be. No one else got your memo about the way things should be done, how they should treat you, or how to live their lives by your standards and beliefs. People often get angry because someone violates their deeply-held ideals. Yet, trying to do an impossible task — getting everyone to live by your idea of perfection — is bound to create a lot of frustration. Simply take people as they are and appreciate the colorful spectrum of ideas and viewpoints, instead of feeling exasperated by them.
5. Stop comparing yourself to others
Most people play the internal comparison game. Usually, they scrutinize only one small area of that person’s life and see where the match up. For example, I may compare myself to Ironman Champion and Olympian Matt Fitzgerald and determine he’s a better triathlete than me. (We aren’t even in the same stratosphere, by the way.) However, this is only one small area of life. Who knows? Maybe I can ride horses or sing better than him? Looking at only a small fraction of a whole person and ranking that part against yourself is a pointless activity. You are so much more than this one piece of your life that you have under the microscope at the moment. This habit will only create discontent in your life. If you simply can’t stop measuring things, take an inward comparison dive instead. Are you a better person than you were yesterday?
6. Stop believing that you’ll be happy only when all of your dreams come true
Who is the happier person? The one who decides, “I will be happy when I make 100 million dollars,“ or the one who believes, ”I will be happy with a great supper and time with my family?” Having lofty goals are great. But when you tie your happiness to future successes that may or may not happen, you never find joy in the life you live today. Find things that thrill you today, and let tomorrow surprise you.
7. Stop being a glass-half-empty person
If you’re a pessimistic person, you will notice all of the bad in your life. Your perception becomes your reality. Instead, choose to focus on the best in people, the brighter moments, and the beauty and blessings surrounding you. The more you focus on the sunshine, the less the shadows will invade your perspective.
8. Stop making yourself lonely
We are naturally social creatures and nurturing relationships makes up a large part of life. If you find yourself alone and depressed on a Saturday night, make an effort to change it. Finding friendships will certainly improve your enthusiasm for what each day brings. How do you find good friends? Seek out social settings with people who share similar interests and beliefs to build a common foundation and launch a great relationship. Smile, reach out, and be genuinely interested in others. You will be surprised how far this will get you in building life-long connections.
9. Stop seeking materialism over everything else in life.
While money certainly is a great gain in this life, it doesn’t bring happiness. Think about how you would feel if tomorrow was your last day to breathe. Would you really want to make more money, or would your focus turn to connecting with people or having certain experiences? If you live by your values, you will find more fulfillment than materialism could ever bring.
10. Make time for the right things
We all lose our focus at times. However, keeping your activities aligned with your values is helpful in keeping a positive perspective. One good exercise is to list your values and rank them by their importance to you. Then, see how many of your daily activities actually align with your values. Is there a disconnect? If so, what can you do to change it?
11. Stop hanging out with unhappy people
You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time around. If your friends are constant sources of negativity in your life, it may be time to find more positive people.
12. Discover your purpose
So many people have subscribed to the lie that their life purpose is to make it to the weekend. No wonder there are so many miserable clock punchers in the world! Instead of existing, find a way to start living! Find your passion and purpose and pursue them, despite the fact that it may turn the mundane inside out and terrify you. Discovering your part in the story is one of the best pieces in life’s adventure!
13. Stop being an actor and start being an author
You do the world a huge disservice when you try to be someone you’re not. Be authentic. Playing a part you weren’t meant to play to meet outside expectations is just asking for heartache. Even when you try to push down the pit in your stomach, a part of you will always know you are emotionally compromising yourself and your happiness to read lines that you didn’t write, and worse, don’t believe in.
14. Stop yourself getting stuck in the past.
Many people become the product of their pasts. They are the causalities of regret, sorrow, what ifs, and hindsight vision. While we can all learn from our past, staying there is not practical to living in the present. The past can’t be changed or relived. To constantly dwell on it does not create an emotionally healthy outlook.
15. Think about your future and enjoy today
Some people focus so much on the stars that they miss the entire journey’s sights, experiences, and lessons learned in getting there. Find as much joy in the adventure as in obtaining the end goal. If you don’t, you will be frustrated until your future vision is reality. Since this may or may not happen, why limit yourself when you can find just as much happiness in the quest as in the destination?
16. Stop being unhealthy
How you value fitness, healthy eating, stress reduction, and sleeping all impact how much happiness you feel. Emotions are linked to many physical properties in your body. The mind — body connection is very real, and often just adding exercise, sunshine, extra shut-eye, or a healthier diet can improve your mood immediately.
17. Stop being a perfectionist
There are three main types of perfectionism: self perfectionism — where you expect perfection from yourself; social perfectionism — where you believe others expect you to be perfect; and other perfectionism — where you expect others to be perfect. All three examples can be happiness busters. Being perfect is an unrealistic goal for you to place on yourself or others. Constantly falling short of the unattainable will continuously keep you blue.
18. Stop being afraid of the future
Some people are so afraid of making a mistake that they never try. Just imagine how that would have worked out when you were learning to walk! You’d probably still be crawling. Unfortunately, we sometimes lose our bravery as adults and fear trying anything because it may not work. If you embrace this mindset, you will never live up to your potential. This can create a huge dissatisfaction in your life.
19. Stop hiding in your comfort zone
Growth happens outside of our comfort zones. If you are too insecure to move out from the familiar, you will never know the joy of conquering your fears and finding your wings. After all, a bird has to eventually jump to discover he can fly. You can’t stay in the nest forever and be happy watching others soar.
20. Stop living in debt
Too much debt can cause stress, broken relationships, and financial hardships. Working out a plan to get out from under pain of payments can often bring peace of mind.
21. Stop seeking validation
If you keep looking for others to determine your own worth, you will always be disappointed. No person except you should have the power to determine your happiness or value.
22. Don’t neglect personal relationships
Most deathbed confessions don’t laminate spending more time chained to the office or making money. Most people regret the relationships that were neglected in pursuit of things that suddenly lost their importance. Remember, don’t neglect your friends and family. Their love is more valuable than anything else in the end.
23. Stop procrastinating
Procrastination is an endless spiral into frustration. The more you do it, the heavier your load. It’s like trying to run a marathon while picking up rocks along the way. Eventually the stress gets too heavy.
You should finish projects and drop those rocks so you stay light and able to maneuver through your day without dragging 20 other projects you have put off behind you.
24. Learn something
Learning new things brings joy in the discovery of growth. If you’ve stopped learning, embrace a new hobby or discover a new interest. You will find that the excitement of learning brings you extra spring.
25. Stop ignoring your dreams
The ghosts of dead dreams can haunt us. Fortunately, you can always breathe new life into your vision by finding the courage to follow new and exciting possibilities.
26. Stop letting yourself be bored
Many people go through life unchallenged, and this can lead to boredom. After all, technological conveniences, safety regulations, and the ease of modern living can often take the adventure out of life. Some people get stuck in a rut, and become dull without the rough stuff to sharpen things up a bit. There are many ways to still find the wild in your life. You just have to make it a goal to do things that scare you enough and wake you up to the amazing life adventures available to you.
27. Stop overdoing it
If you are spending your time being busy instead of being focused on the things that make you feel alive, you will find happiness an elusive pursuit. Instead of just being busy, learn to refocus your time so that you are effective, while not wasting time on things that won’t contribute to the best life. After all, you can find many things that take up your time, but don’t take you anywhere.
28. Get enough sleep
People who suffer from insomnia have a 10-fold chance of developing depression compared with those who sleep well. Sleep issues have also been linked to many other health issues. So, if you aren’t sleeping well, it’s time to remedy this issue.
29. Spend more time alone
Sometimes, we don’t take the time to separate ourselves from the noise of life to just rejuvenate our minds and focus inward. It’s okay to take time to be alone in a way that relaxes you; whether that’s having a coffee on a park bench under a tree or taking a week-long backpacking trip through the Alaskan mountains. However you spend your solitary moments, don’t forget to take time to step away from all the craziness of life and refocus. Your mental mojo will thank you!
30. Stop being aimless
An aimless life is the source of disappointment and frustration in life. Instead of just letting things happen to you and trying to keep up, create your own future by setting goals and following through on them. One of the greatest joys in life is seeing a goal come to fruition.
31. Stop being dependent on others
While it may be easier to depend on others, becoming independent is one of the hallmarks of adulthood. Those that cling to others with no plan to break free often struggle with self-esteem. It’s hard to find your wings when weighed down by other people’s agendas.
32. Stop thinking you don’t deserve happiness
Some people have the warped idea that they don’t deserve happiness. They may have guilt about their past and feel they should be punished, or just don’t feel that they are worthy of such an emotion. Happiness is something everyone should experience. If you don’t feel you are worthy of it, it is time for a re-adjustment of perspective. Give yourself permission to find your happy place.
33. Stop telling yourself that you’re just one step away
If you are someone who is always one step away from being satisfied, this may be hurting your chances for happiness. If everything is just out of reach, you will never experience the fun you can have in every moment given to you. If there is always something you need to fill up your life, when will this end? Most people who think this way don’t realize that they will never be able to satisfy the greed monster inside. They truly believe their own self lie that if they just have this one last thing, happiness will find them. Those who learn to embrace the joy of the moment, instead of putting it off to a distant future that will never happen, will find that they love life so much more than those always trying to fill the bottomless pit.
34. Stop ignoring opportunities
Sometimes, when opportunity comes to knock on the door, people just decide to keep the TV droning on and not to answer the door. Or, the opportunity looks too much like work, or pushes them out of their comfort zone that they choose to pass on it. However, if this becomes a habit, you will find yourself frustrated when you see times where you passed when you should have held on with every fingernail fiber. It’s hard to be happy when you can’t hold onto the good things that come your way. Take the risk, and jump; you may be surprised how much it changes your life for the better.
35. Stop being complacent
It’s very easy to become complacent. Yet, you can leave this monster any time you want to start swimming toward a better future instead of floating wherever the waters take you. There is a joy found in the struggle that you will never experience in a passive existence.
36. Stop doing a job you hate
You spend most of your life working. So, if you are in a job that you hate, it’s really hard to keep a happy outlook. The best way to change your life is to begin working toward your passion, not just a paycheck.
37. Stop chasing the wrong things
Sometimes we get confused about what really is important for us. Do a deep dive inside to discover what you value most. Then, don’t waste your life chasing the things that don’t really matter.
38. Stop ignoring the spiritual life
Many studies have shown a correlation between spirituality and increased happiness. Being part of a group of like-minded people who focus on helping others and unconditionally loving people certainly would help you find fulfillment in life. Also, many people find prayer and meditation to be very calming and beneficial to their emotional well being. All of these factors, as well as many others, contribute to an overall better mental outlook of people plugged in to the spiritual realm.
39. Stop being afraid of yourself
As strange as it sounds, many people are afraid of being themselves and don’t trust their own instincts. While no one is perfect, if you can’t trust yourself, who else can you trust? Learning to put faith in your own decisions and life course will create a much more satisfying journey than constantly doubting yourself.
38. Stop worrying about what others think
Once people finally accept the reality that you can’t please everyone, life gets so much easier. In fact, having a goal to try to please everyone will simply drive you crazy. There is no reason to exist with other people’s motives and thoughts whispering in your ear. Break free of the people-pleasing cycle and learn to live your own life.
40. Relax more
All work and no play will drive all happiness far away. We all need some down time. If you aren’t getting enough, you are probably fighting back some frustration and stress that don’t have to hold you down. Learn to place a higher priority on learning to de-stress. Your mental and physical health will improve dramatically if you learn to take time to rest and rejuvenate.
41. Take risks
Many people don’t push their life to the limits. If you’re feeling a bit unchallenged and unchanged, maybe it’s time to revisit some risks and push yourself a bit farther. You may find yourself exploring uncharted territory while your friends kick back into the easy-chair arms of the familiar. The excitement of getting over your previous limits creates an enticing existence.
42. Stop being impatient
I’ve always struggled with patience. It’s so hard to wait, but sometimes that’s all you can do. When you learn to approach times where circumstances force you to slow down, try to keep a positive outlook on the situation. After all, the time will pass either way; you can choose to be calm and take your time to make the best decision, or you can make a hasty turn that takes you down a much worse road.
43. Learn from your mistakes
Have you ever noticed how some people never seem to learn? Even though they always come to horrible outcomes, they continue with the same pattern of self-destruction. While it’s easy to see this happen to others, it’s much harder to recognize it in ourselves. If something goes wrong, as tempting as it may be just to block the memory, it’s far better to think through how the negative result occurred and how you can avoid replicating it in the future. Our mistakes do serve a purpose, no matter how painful it is, we need to learn from them.
44. Get a dog
Pet therapy is so effective, it is utilized by hospitals, nursing homes, and disaster relief agencies such as FEMA. Studies show that petting animals releases oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, in both the dog and human. It just stands to reason that having your own live-in pet therapist with a waging tail and puppy-dog eyes will make you smile and brighten your day.
45. Stop equating comfort with happiness
Just because you’re comfortable in your life and job, doesn’t mean you’re necessarily happy. Learn to distinguish between the two feelings. You may discover that even though you have a cushy life, you are dealing with depression. If so, find what makes you happy, and pursue it even at the cost of your comfort.
46. Love yourself
It is impossible to find happiness if you don’t love yourself enough to pursue it. While it may be hard to get out of the boxing ring, it’s time to stop beating yourself up and learn to love the person in the mirror.
47. Stop playing the victim card
If you live your life as a victim, you also believe the lie that you have no power to change it. That’s not a way to embrace a meaningful existence. Instead, change your faulty belief systems and empower yourself to take responsibility for your actions and the corresponding reactions you encounter. Never give your power away to someone else.
48. Let yourself be happy
So, what are you holding onto that’s making you sad? It’s a fair question to ask yourself. Sometimes, we consciously choose unhappiness because we can’t let go. Or, we unknowingly chose it because we haven’t taken a good, hard look at our lives and discovered what we need to cut out. The choice to be happy ultimately lies in your hands. Happiness doesn’t have to be elusive. Sometimes, all you have to do is to open the door to the thrilling possibilities before you.