What is unhappiness. Is it that bad feeling in your chest whenever something bad happens to you? Is it simply being sad about something? The truth is unhappiness is a more complicated emotion than most people would like to think.
It is like that void within you begging to be filled with something to ease an anomalous weight on your chest. It is like a nagging thought in your head that never wants to go away. To some people unhappiness is a mere nuisance, but to some it has formed into this monstrous rotating cell of uncontrollable negative force.
One thing is for sure, many of us could use a few pointers on how to get rid of some negative habits contributing to unhappiness. Here I bring you the 13 destructive habits unhappy people do so that you could avoid them and perhaps give you that extra guidance on your journey to happiness.
1. FOCUSING ON THE NEGATIVES
The human mind is an amazing thing, however, it has its quirks. There is such a thing in psychology called “availability bias.” It is a psychological phenomenon where memories recalled recently are given more weight. For example if you just heard news of a plane crash you will feel like there is a high probability your own flight will crash despite the fact airplanes are currently the safest way to travel.
Availability bias also applies to your thoughts. If you focus on negatives, you will feel like only negative things can happen. As a reaction you think more negative thoughts thus you get more stressed and even more unhappy. At first this might only be localized within your conscious level of thinking, but after years of negative thinking, it will gradually move to your subconscious. That is when you start feeling that seemingly shrouded feeling of emptiness.
How to stop focusing on the negatives
If someone tells you its easy to stop negative thoughts, the are lying. Negative thoughts are in fact very hard to stop. However, the trick is to not get them started. Negative thoughts gain momentum. It usually starts as “hey, I think this dress makes me look fat,” and it eventually ends in “No one will ever find me beautiful.” It is part of a healthy psychological lifestyle to monitor your thoughts.
I remember when I was more socially anxious. If one person makes one questionable remark or body language, I will start thinking about it. Then before long I will start thinking about what everyone else at that place thinks of me. When I go to bed I would then proceed to think about how everyone in my life thinks about me.
This happened whenever I would participate in any social event which made me gravitate away from social gatherings. Nowadays I’ve learned to not over-analyze what people think and cut negative thinking before it gains momentum.
If you see yourself getting anxious about one thing for more than 10 minutes, you need to be able to police yourself and just think about other things. Positive thoughts are a good alternative, but you can also think about other things not relating to yourself such as homework, movies you want to see, books you want to read, etc.
This is why people form a destructive habit of binge eating for example when they are depressed. It lets them focus on what they want instead of the negative thoughts. However, it is not a healthy alternative. Focus on doing things that you want that would provide you with a more productive benefit.
If your negative thoughts do gain momentum try working out, meditating, praying, talking to your friend, or anything that could distract you from it. Again it is much better to stop negative thoughts before they gain momentum. Otherwise, you will be lying awake on your bed thinking about why that girl told you something 10 years ago that no one probably remotely remembers.
2. IGNORING THE POSITIVES
One very destructive mannerism of unhappy people is ignoring the positive things. Its like hanging out with people who nag all the time. They would keep chanting about how you missed that one intersection without considering the fact that you are in fact trying your best. Not only does it make that person unhappy because they are stressing themselves out, it makes everyone around them want to choke themselves.
It is very important to always consider the positive aspect in things. Again it is part of a healthy psychological lifestyle. The human mind has a natural tendency to focus on stressful negative things because it is programmed into to us to keep an eye on that thing behind the bush because it might pounce at us and literally chew on your scalp. Nowadays, we don’t have to deal with severely dangerous situations, however, our autonomic nervous system, the system that regulates heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, etc., doesn’t know we have houses and cars now so its still overreacts to life’s daily stresses.
Focusing on positive things helps us override that overreaction of our autonomic nervous system and thus go back to homeostasis much quicker, meaning we stop worrying about the negative aspects much sooner and not suffer from the psychological and physiological drawbacks of stress. The less stressed you are, the happier you become as an individual.
How to stop ignoring the positives
Try to see the positive things in everything. For example, you failed your midterm exam; at least you learned some new things and at least you have experienced the pain of failing making you emotionally stronger. Your fiancee broke up with you; at least it happened before the two of you had kids and a mortgage. You got punched in the face; at least they didn’t kick you in the balls.
It also helps looking for something funny in a situation. There is a reason humor is a very attractive asset in an individual. It subconsciously helps us enjoy life a lot better.
3. WORRYING ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE THINK
Taking what people think into consideration is a good thing. It prevents us from being social outcasts. Its good to belong in a community, however, one needs to find a balance. Worrying about people’s opinions for every single aspect of your life is one sure-fire way to be unhappy.
How to stop worrying about what people think
Here is the simple truth. If you are worrying about what others think of you, guess what everyone else is thinking? They are worried about what other people think of them! Worrying about what other people think is pretty much pointless. Its better to pay attention to the things you want to do.
Now lets talk about the haters. Often times we get so riled up over them because they are very vocal. The fact remains that haters will always be haters. Do not stress over them. Its like complaining why the wall hit in the face when you walk into it. That’s simply what a wall is, it keeps things outside out, and things inside in. Haters are people who gain some kind of satisfaction from hating on other people. They will look for things to hate on because that is simply what they do. Just ignore them and distance yourself from them so you can enjoy your life in peace.
4. LIVING IN THE PAST AND THE FUTURE
Living in the past and worrying about the future is one of the biggest causes of unhappiness. The greatest emotional afflictions such as depression, anger, guilt, fear, and shame are all magnified by a person’s predisposition to worry about the past and future.
I guarantee you, if you cannot let go of your past you will not be happy. Similarly, if you cannot stop worrying about the future you will be unhappy. Looking to your past often spawns emotions of guilt and shame because you end up regretting the mistakes you have done while looking to your future causes fear and anxiety about what will happen.
How to stop worrying about the past and the future
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”
Try to accept your past. This is easier said than done because the past often holds very painful memories, however, it is a personal journey we all have to do in order to grow to our fullest potential. No matter how small or big the problems of your past are, you should make it a personal pilgrimage to revisit these painful memories when you feel safe and ready so that you can learn to accept them and let go of them.
Don’t worry about the future. Sometimes it is best to deal with your past because fears about the future can be due to a trauma that happened in the past and you are afraid it will happen again.
One common belief of people is that worrying serves a purpose: that it prevents your fears from happening. In order to stop worrying about the future, you need to let go of this superstition and simply embrace your feelings of fear and anxiety.
There will always be a chance of pain in the future, however, if you realize that pain is merely a sensation, it loses its hold on your mind and your heart. The strongest people on earth have felt the most pain and they have learned that pain is nothing but an illusion. If one breaks free of that illusion, you can face anything with unwavering courage and most of all if will set you free. Not only that, those who rise above pain and fear often become exceptional individuals capable of achieving great feats.
Perfectionism leads to unhappiness because of the simple fact that we live in reality. And in reality nothing is ever perfect, so of course you will never be happy if you expect things to always be faultless. You will have flaws, you will make mistakes, and you will fail. That is a fact and it is a part of life. The sooner you can accept that, the sooner you can step closer to happiness.
How to prevent perfectionism
Set realistic goals for yourself. Know yourself and know your limits. Do not set the bar so high that your goal is impossible to attain.
I once talked to a VP of a web developing firm and he told me an eye opening fact about perfectionism. He learned that when you set the bar so high, it often leads to an ending product that is only superficially perfect. Having rushed the process just to reach facetious perfection, the resulting product would often have problems later on since many things have been overlooked. Instead of shooting for the stars, he learned that setting the bar just enough that it can be reasonably reached is the best approach. Once the realistic goal is reached, that is when they start improving the ending product beyond their original goal. This often leads to well-rounded results that work well in the real world.
Most importantly, you have to forgive yourself for your mistakes. No matter how much you stress about your flaws, it will never magically become perfect. Instead, take appropriate steps to learn from your mistakes, but let that be the end of it. Set a realistic time frame for you to achieve your goals putting into account your strengths and your weaknesses.
Enjoy the journey, the destination is only the icing on the cake. You have to enjoy what you do. Successful individuals achieve great things because they enjoy the challenge of the training. Happiness is knowing you are going the correct direction, but enjoying every single step towards it.
6. HAVING NO GOALS
If perfectionism is focusing too much of the goal, having no goal at all is at the other end of the spectrum. Without goals, there is no personal growth. Without personal growth, you will find that life is unfulfilling and bland.
How to start setting goals
Take one baby step at a time. The main problem you will face is your tendency to procrastinate because your body and your mind have gotten used to staying stationary. Consistency is the key here. If you set a goal of losing weight, make sure you show up at the gym on your scheduled date. You don’t always have to perform amazingly, but you always have to show up.
Give yourself rewards. It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose. It can something as simple as a desert treat if you meet your weekly goal. It helps keep your moral up and makes achieving your goal exponentially more fun.
7. LYING TO YOURSELF
A destructive habit that causes a huge deal of unhappiness is lying to ourselves. We lie to ourselves to protect our ego from the truth. For example, John always had troubles connecting with the opposite sex. He didn’t have a sister so he did know how to effectively relate to females. As he grew up, he never had a chance to be in a relationship with a woman. All his previous attempts to be with a girl failed. This became a great source of frustration and depression for him.
Then he heard one of his friends state all women want is money. He started developing this statement in his mind until he held on to it to protect his ego. So he started having money-driven relationships with other women. As he pursued this lie, he eventually realized these women never actually loved him for him, but for his money. As a result he became depressed once again.
These self-imposed lies only solve the problem temporarily. The main problem is these lies become a major part of us that we become incapable of solving our problems. These problems then become embedded in our subconscious and at that point we do not know the reason behind our unhappiness. Its like digging yourself such a big hole that after a while, you don’t even consider being in the hole as problem.
How to be honest with yourself
Value the truth. As cliche as it sounds, the truth will set you free. You might have heard that statement from everyone and everywhere, but do you really know what it means? It means you won’t have to pretend anymore. Many do not realize the amazing feeling associated with being completely honest with ones-self. It is hard to explain this feeling through words, but give it a try. Because once you value you the truth, you will see that lying to yourself is like walking yourself into jail and flushing the key down the toilet.
Visualize what you will be 10 years from now. Could you see yourself keeping up this lie for the rest of your life? Truly the very image of your demise painted in your own head and in your own emotions might be the best motivation for you to accept the truth.
8. THINKING TOO MUCH
The act of thinking itself, does not cause unhappiness. In fact, thinking is good for you. It helps you grow, however, there is a difference between thinking and obsessing. Thinking is an objective analysis of a problem, issue or concept. It helps you solve problems effectively. Obsessing is spawned by fear and anxiety, and does not lead to any personal grow, but to personal decay.
Obsession triggers stress. Studies have shown that stress skews a person’s decision making process making you less objective thus making the resulting decision less effective. This stress also makes you feel like you are shrouded in a cloud of problems all the time. This can lead to chronic stress – causing not only unhappiness, but harmful health effects as well.
How to stop thinking too much
Keep a journal. If you start stressing over a particular problem, write it in your journal. This will release you from the burden of the problem because you know you can address it later on. Revisit these notes when you have relaxed and calmed down.
Do not bite more than you can chew. You are just human. Do not try to tackle a ten-man job by yourself. You need to know your own limits.
Communicate with the people around you. Often times it is best to share the stress with other people so that you don’t feel so emotionally overwhelmed. Effective communication not only relieves stress, but it helps in solving a problem more effectively. Remember, two or more brains are better than one.
9. HOLDING GRUDGES
It is very easy to let yourself hold a grudge. After all it is only natural to hold negative emotions towards a person who has done you wrong. However, people often end up destroying their own lives for the sake of getting back at someone.
Grudges are very superficial and hurt you more than the person you are seeking vengeance from. The best thing you can do when a person has hurt you is to distance yourself from them. Emotionally tying yourself to them with a grudge will make distancing from them much more difficult.
How to let go of grudges
Be more forgiving. Sometimes people make mistakes. Try to understand someone’s position. Everyone deserves a second chance.
Think of it as a reward to yourself. If they have shown that they are not willing to change forgive them still, but this time, its best to completely avoid them. It is their own problem not yours. Accept them for who they are and move on with your life with a refreshed heart free of any negative emotion caused by this ordeal.
10. LACK OF DISCIPLINE
Undisciplined people are unhappy people. This is because they want to get something, but their lack of discipline prevents them from acting on it. Often times an undisciplined person will try to get what they want, but their lack of commitment and consistency will stop them. This would lead to frustration and unhappiness. Discipline gives people a sense of freedom from procrastination and it empowers them with the capability to reach for their dreams.
How to become more disciplined
You have to start small. To some, discipline is very easy. It is because they have been disciplined all their lives. It could also be that something triggered them to start leading a more disciplined lifestyle. For people who lack discipline, they find it hard to commit to something because they have never exercised discipline their entire lives. It is best to begin by committing yourself to doing small things and then gradually work your way up to bigger commitments.
Do it before before you think about it. Often times our minds starts making excuses for us. I remember when I never did any ab work outs. I resented them so much that I would think about doing it for an hour straight only to tell myself I will do it the next day because I don’t have anymore time. One day, I made the bold move of pushing through with it and actually doing an ab work out. It was a psychologically laborious process. Every other day I will be worrying about that ab work out I need to do. That is until I made an amazing breakthrough. Doing something before thinking about it makes sticking to commitments easier. I stopped worrying about it and it became a habit. As a result, it became super easy. Some things you simply have to shut your brain off and do them.
11. THE NEED FOR INSTANT GRATIFICATION
This goes hand in hand with lack of discipline. In today’s world where everything is instant, people have unrelenting need for instant gratification. If you want to watch a movie, you can just watch it online. If you want to eat something you can just go to the nearest drive-through. If you want to laugh, you can just go to youtube and laugh at bloopers until you get lockjaw.
You become unhappy because you expect everything to be easy. As a result you never get the satisfaction of taking on a challenge that requires patience and delayed gratification. The most amazing experiences in life requires patience.
How to stop the need for instant gratification
Try not to indulge too much on easy fun. It is good to indulge yourself once in a while, but indulging yourself all the time will only get you addicted to instant gratification. Not to mention, it only makes those indulgences less enjoyable since you do them not to actually indulge, but to escape having to deal with alternatives requiring patience.
Challenge yourself. Once you experience the amazing satisfaction and fulfillment associated with working for something, you will get hooked on the challenges of life. Your success here will help you grow and mature as an individual.
12. LIVING AN UNHEALTHY LIFESTYLE
Unhealthy people are unhappy people because they are constantly in physical pain and difficulty. When I say unhealthy, it does not mean you have to be a particular weight. Each person can be healthy at a slightly heavier weight or slightly lower weight. Healthy is your body being able to function properly to do life’s daily activities.
There is also such as thing as psychological health which has a major influence in our happiness. Happiness requires good psychological health capable of handling life stresses and challenges while maintaining a positive outlook.
How to stay healthy
There are many different ways to be healthy mostly because people live different lives with varying demands. The key mindset to remember is knowing your body’s limitations, and keep a constant monitor on it as you age. Making sure you take care of your body includes keeping active, having regular doctor check-ups and getting to know how your body reacts to different conditions. Do not abuse it to the point that it cannot recover. Your body is your temple so take good care of it.
13. NEVER STEPPING OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE
Last but not least, unhappy people are people who never step out of their comfort zone. These people never experience life because they never want to risk anything. It is good to be careful about everything, but being so careful that you avert yourself from any kind of risk is also a cause of unhappiness.
Many of the greatest pleasures in life include some degree of risk. Learning how to drive a car requires a huge deal of risk. Walking up to a girl and asking her out is a socially risky move. Starting your own business requires risking your money and your time. There is this poem called risk by William Arthur Ward:
“To laugh is to risk appearing a fool, to weep is to risk appearing sentimental. To reach out to another is to risk involvement, to expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self. To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss. To love is to risk not being loved in return, to live is to risk dying, to hope is to risk despair, to try is to risk failure. But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live. Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom. Only a person who risks is free. The pessimist complains about the wind; The optimist expects it to change; And the realist adjusts the sails.”
Happiness is not about avoiding the painful things in life. It is about having the capability to chase our dreams and our aspirations. After all we are humans and we are all born with a purpose. And that purpose is something we all have to find on our own. The journey, the struggle, and even the pain involved in our desire to achieve our optimum realization is what makes us happy. Because through that we find a reason for our existence, and as we find a reason for all the pain and pleasure we experience, we tackle everything life throws at us with a heart filled with joy, gratitude, purpose and happiness.