“Sometimes in our lives, we all have pain, we all have sorrow.” This quote sounds more profound when sung by the great Bill Withers, who goes on to proclaim that, during such times, “we all need someone to lean on.” No doubt it is far more difficult to face unhappiness alone, but when your unhappiness is coming from a hidden place, when it is not a recent death or divorce or immediate tragedy, locating the source of your unhappiness can be the difference between finding your way out and struggling blindly for indefinite periods of time.
If you’ve been unhappy for no apparent reason, you should take a long, unbiased and honest look at your life, and perhaps develop a new outlook by taking a course such as this one that examines happiness from a scientific perspective. Below I’ve detailed many of the common and powerful reasons people lapse into unhappiness, which will help you to identify the source of your unrest.
I want to briefly add that denial is very real and that if you read these causes of unhappiness with a closed mind you are doing yourself a silly and immature injustice. A natural reaction is to feel angry when you realize that something such as not exercising is making you unhappy, but these are, in fact, leading causes of unhappiness. So if you get that familiar feeling of anger or denial, you might want to stop and look a little deeper.
Product Of Your Environment
There’s no getting around it: we are products of our environments. And if our environment is primarily one room of our house, or the virtual world of a handful of websites, or even a group of people – friends and family included – who are themselves unhappy, then let’s face it: there isn’t a whole lot of inspiration in your life. This is easy to fix, but it takes considerable will power to wean yourself away from habits, and especially people, who are inadvertently hurting you.
As wonderful and vibrant as life in cities can be, it can also be isolating and entirely lacking in certain things people don’t realize they need, such as natural beauty. Consistently getting outside and into that forgotten place called Nature has nearly infinite health benefits. Being in a beautiful environment works wonders that most of us have either forgotten or no longer believe exist.
Indeed, we are social animals. Even those of us who consider ourselves loners or content hermits need a degree of consistent social activity. An eight hour work day doesn’t always count, either. If you find yourself insisting that you’re too tired and don’t need to go out, then you’re cutting yourself off from the “wonderful and vibrant” life I mentioned above. Yes, fresh air is essential, but so is the energy and excitement that can only be found in other human beings. For more proactive advice, check out this article on the keys to happiness.
Born To Run
Just take a gander at this article by Discover Magazine, or this one by The New York Times, both of which examine a bonafide fact: human beings are built to run. Discover Magazine even claims that human beings can outrun almost any other animal over long distances. If you haven’t caught on yet, exercise is important. It’s written into our DNA. Even if running is the last thing you’d be caught doing, you need to be active in some way, shape or form. Exercising pumps oxygen through your brain like a firehose. It opens your lungs. It stimulates your metabolism. It increases blood flow. And burning energy to exercise increases your overall energy levels.
Happiness, and the things that make us happy, requires energy. As the immortal poet William Blake wrote two-hundred years ago, “Energy is Eternal Delight.” I daresay ole Billy was right!
The Color Of Money
I hope this doesn’t come as a shock, but money doesn’t make you happy. And if money does make you happy, then you probably have bigger things to worry about it, like whether or not you’re going to take over the world. Being envious of people who have more money, or bigger houses, or nicer things is a waste product of the American dream. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Money can only buy temporary satisfaction. The famous quote by Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, in not an act, but a habit,” seems to work equally well for happiness.
Almost without exception, people are, at some point in their lives, going to want to find a “soul mate,” or someone who brings love and comfort into daily life. If you’ve been feeling lonely in this regard, keep your chin up. Finding love is one of the most difficult things in life, and even people who think they’ve found it often turn out to be wrong.
But just being more pro-active in your search will make you feel better; go to gyms, restaurants, bars and other places where like-minded and aged people hang out. There’s no shame in using online dating, but that doesn’t get you out into the world (which will also help with unhappiness) and there’s no denying that it lacks a certain “organic” quality.
Keep in mind, however, that even if you are not in a relationship, you can be extremely happy. Check out this post on being happy alone.
Just don’t forget to enjoy being single. The benefits can be used to great personal advantage, and there is a whole world of people stuck in bad relationships who would gladly trade places.
People often find that when they feel better about themselves, other aspects of life that were previously lacking suddenly seem more attainable (and sometimes even seem to fall right into their hands). A happy and fit person simply emits a more attractive glow – to friends, family and potential significant others. We’re barely two months into 2014, and it’s never too late to tack on one more resolution. You can get some help generating ideas with with blog post on being happy in 2014, a guide to boosting daily happiness.
As I mentioned earlier, an unhappy work environment leads to, well, unhappiness. There is a certain amount of logic involved (spending so much time at work, day in and day out, takes a toll even with an enjoyable career), but also science, as evidenced by this Psychology Today article. Having changed careers many times myself, I know this is something often procrastinated and not easily accomplished. But it’s almost always worth the trouble. If you aren’t in a position to change careers, try to see what you can do to improve your current situation, especially if it’s a problem with superiors. Even just browsing for new job opportunities is empowering.
Theory Of Negativity
Negative thoughts act as the walls inside of which our happiness makes its increasingly comfortable home. Negativity places self imposed limits on how we feel and what we can do. This extends to everything from our professional lives to our ability to sustain relationships. Needless to say, our self-esteem takes a hard blow from negative thoughts, as well. Doing the things mentioned above, such as exercising and being pro-active, can quickly turn these thoughts around. Just doing will prove these thoughts wrong. Get started with this five-star course on reclaiming your positive self-esteem.
A Sea Of Grudges
If ever something were easier said than done, it’s forgiveness. But at some point in our lives, we have to find a way to forgive people who wronged us, or at least to a degree that peace can be obtained. A sad fact of life is that truly devastating crimes and transgressions take place every day. If you’ve been the victim of a violent crime and haven’t spoken to anyone about it, I gently yet firmly encourage you to visit the National Center for Victims of Crime. There is advice on how to get help or, if you still aren’t ready to speak to anyone, how to help yourself and how to begin to forgive.
If you’re dealing with grudges of admittedly lesser degrees, sometimes it helps to realize that certain people have it far worse and that you are only hurting yourself and others by holding a grudge on spite alone. Healing can only happen through love, forgiveness and finally realizing that anger and hate are perpetual sources of unhappiness.
There are many ways to start moving forward. One is to invest in some professional help, such as this guide to finding true and lasting happiness.
You can also plan your own path forward, a regimen for happiness based on what you yourself believe will help make you happy again; this is an empowering feeling, to say the very least.