Life is unpredictable and a roller coaster ride that can either make happy or unhappy people. At the end of the day, you may think that you are not happy with your job, with the way you look, or your relationships.
Overanalyzing and overthinking life circumstances, and even the little things, can sometimes easily control one’s feelings and emotions, therefore, making other people feel sad.
However, we must ask ourselves these times: ‘Why am I so unhappy?’ and ‘What does it even mean to have a happy life?’
What is it about feeling unhappiness that keeps us so interested? The answer might lie in the fact that we are all searching for happiness and looking for ways to become happier.
We may not be able to find a cure, but in this article, maybe your search can lead to understanding what makes people happy and unhappy and why a person feels such a way.
Being unhappy in the 21st century
In this present age where mental health is starting to be recognized in different parts of the world, (making it easier to spread information through social media), the 21st century is an exciting time to be alive – and the most peaceful age in human history according to psychologist Steven Pinker.
We have less violence than ever before – more people living a normal life with dignity – but we also seem much unhappier now too. Why so?
In the 2019 World Happiness Report, results showed that negative feelings are rising among people and all around the world with economist Jeffrey D. Sachs even stating that “We are in an era of rising tensions and negative emotions.”
Why is that so?
According to Lachlan Brown, happiness has been on the decline since 2007 because of mental health issues being on the rise for the past decades.
Although there is no single explanation for why this trend is happening, what is certain is that the changing society, expectations in one’s lives, and questions about the course of life play a huge factor in why more and more people are growing unhappy.
What causes unhappiness?
Bertrand Russell, a 20th-century philosopher, and mathematician turned his attention to the unhappiness of modern man. He was troubled by reports that people were less happy than they had been in previous generations and he sought to understand why this may be so.
Here are the reasons and problems that Bertrand believes to be contributing to a person’s lack of happiness in their lives:
Absence of life purpose
The world is an overwhelming place, with meaning and purpose always changing.
As humans developed knowledge on how to study life around them they also learned how insignificant their own existence was compared to what’s happening outside themselves – this led many people to feel like there wasn’t any point in trying anymore because why bother when it doesn’t matter?
Meaninglessness creates existential angst or anxiety because the idea of mortality and the realization that we are just a tiny speck in this infinite universe can be daunting.
Just take the COVID-19 pandemic as an example.
The current pandemic has created a crisis of suffering revealing existential concerns on people who are starting to reevaluate their lives. Some people started realizing and questioning their own mortality and meaning in life due to the sudden shift and the anxiety brought by the COVID-19.
Have you ever get so competitive against yourself or others? If the answer is yes, then you are not alone.
In our capitalist society where everyone is competing against others in terms of achievements, salaries, and possessions, it is no secret that competition has become one of the most important aspects of our lives.
Individualism is also more prominent than ever as people focus more on themselves for self-growth and self-actualization. Although not at all negative, these habits have led to a disconnection from others because some people nowadays tend to focus solely on their needs without considering how other people might be feeling too!
Fear of missing out
In relation to society’s growing competitiveness, people are inclined to compare themselves to everyone else. In order for one to be successful, society has favored those who are competitive and individualistic because this translates into success in the future.
Moreover, feeling jealous of someone is more prevalent because of today’s digital age where everyone is connected online and can easily share what is going through with their lives.
Seeing and realizing that your achievements are less than someone you know in social media could affect your self-esteem which then could eventually turn to unhappiness.
Have you ever felt tired even without your body moving at all?
The mind is indeed a complex place that can easily affect your thoughts and how your body will respond. The voices inside your heads that make you overthink things become a habit because you have more time to think about it given that most of the jobs now are behind the desk.
Mental fatigue can be exhausting, but it’s not the same as physical exhaustion. It leaves you feeling restless and exhausted at the same time because your body doesn’t know how to react or feel in response to mental work.
Exerting mental effort while the body is stagnant leads to a disconnection between the mind and body thus leaving you mentally exhausted.
There is nothing duller than life without challenges and changes.
We start to feel like the world is stagnant as if time doesn’t pass us by anymore when life is bounded by routine, rules, and habits.
And that’s when we become bored with our days – always doing what has been done before for no other reason but is being expected of us.
But boredom isn’t all that bad. Sometimes you need your mind stimulated in order not to lose focus on everything else going around you during these moments of mundanity!
There is much stress we face in today’s world and one of them is worrying about how others feel or think about us.
We now live in a world that is much more interconnected than ever before. With all of the technological advances, it has become increasingly difficult to find privacy and personal space for oneself.
Russell discusses guilt and shame, persecution mania (or self-absorption), and public opinion as modern concerns because now, not only do your family members have thoughts on what kind of person you may be, but also every online post with your name tagged on it will give people an impression too!
Russell argues that these three issues limit individuality by creating a need to seek validation from others:
- Guilt and shame is connected to everything you do – may it be something you can or cannot do -because of ones moral codes
- Persecution Mania is where you feel too self-absorbed due to your inflated or deflated ego
- Public Opinion makes individuals feel like they should tailor their personality for the audience or risk being mocked
Common habits of unhappy people
The world can be a tough place, especially when circumstances are less than ideal. But there is often an underlying issue with your own thinking and habits that creates unhappiness in the first place!
Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, and don’t take their habits seriously. We all have good and bad patterns in life—they make us human! It doesn’t matter whether you think that it’s important to be perfect or not; what matters is trying your best to identify which of these habitual behaviors are making you unhappy the most so that you can change it!
There are lots of different things that could contribute towards unhappiness but here are some destructive habits you should get rid of to live a happier life:
Behavioral patterns that may lead to unhappiness
1.Not going out
Staying indoors and not going out of the house is said to do more harm than good.
Since spending time in nature is scientifically proven to increase happiness, recognizing this fact has never been more important than today when so many of us spend so much time indoors due to the pandemic.
People who do spend a lot of time outdoors reported feeling happier, and studies show that having plenty of outdoor activities can actually improve your cognitive function and immune system while reducing stress levels!
2. Isolating yourself from others
No man is an island.
Another reason to not always lock yourself in your home is that humans are naturally social beings. People thrive in the company of others such as those with your family and friends.
When you isolate yourself, this can lead to feelings of loneliness and boredom, which can cause unhappiness. An article from the American Psychological Association explored how social isolation impacts one’s physical, mental, and cognitive health negatively.
3. Abusing use of substances
Alcoholism and drug dependency can lead to some seriously negative consequences. They can make you feel great for a few minutes, but this will eventually wear off.
Long-term alcohol and drug use has been linked with fatigue, decreased energy levels, feelings of guilt due to decisions and actions being affected by the substance, difficulty concentrating on work, and difficulty making decisions just to name a few.
These in turn affect relationships negatively which can become a problem when you start isolating yourself from other people – causing severe unhappiness.
4. Not taking care of your health
Not getting enough sleep, poor nutrition, and lack of activity can contribute not only to poor health but also to someone’s unhappiness.
Lack of sleep has been linked with irritability and can make your emotions wild due to your brain’s inability to function properly.
Physical activity and nutrition on the other hand are linked to happiness and increase in confidence, emotional stability, positive thinking, and improved self-control.
Cognitive patterns that may lead to unhappiness
5. Tendency to become a perfectionist
You don’t need to have the perfect life in order to be happy.
Sometimes success and achievement can lead you down a path of self-doubt, but it’s not always necessary for happiness. When people set their expectations so high that they feel like anything less than perfection is a failure, then there will always be disappointment or frustration at how things aren’t going according to plan.
Obsessing over perfection makes a person scrutinize and look for anything negative even in smallest the smallest thing. This dysfunctional way of thinking makes them dissatisfied with their life – moving them more and more away from happiness.
6. Affective forecasting
It is easy to get overwhelmed by a sea of negative voices.
Sometimes you feel like there is nothing to look forward to in life. That’s because we are pretty bad at predicting how our feelings will change when something good or bad happens.
It can make us overestimate the negative impacts of a situation while underestimating the positive ones. As humans do this more often they start seeking out possible negative outcomes rather than looking for positives that might happen too!
7. Ruminating too much about the past and future
The great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said that “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future.”
Happiness is difficult to achieve if you spend most of your time thinking too much about your past and future. Reliving old, painful memories and thinking about what could go wrong in the future will make you miss out on what could be wonderful experiences in the present.
Remember to live for now!
Am I unhappy or depressed?
You may have heard of or used the idiom “feeling blue” a couple of times to express your sadness.
Some people have a predisposition to see the world through rose-colored glasses, while others are more likely to take on a negative perspective. Life is not always rosy—good things happen and bad things also occur. In Buddhism, this is all part of life!
When you perceive things more in a negative light, most likely, someone will tend to feel more negative emotions such as anger, misery, and sadness. As a result of such thinking and behavior, some may start to dislike themselves or others, and feel that their confidence, self-esteem, and general life satisfaction are reduced.
One of the misconceptions and questions about feeling sad is that “If I am unhappy, does it mean I’m also depressed?”
The case is not always like that. While unhappiness is one of the symptoms that people with depression experience, depression is a serious medical illness caused by chemical imbalances in the brain which affect a person’s mood. If diagnosed, it needs to be treated by a doctor or therapist right away.
It is however possible that your feelings of unhappiness may eventually lead to depression (or other mental illnesses such as anxiety disorder) if not recognized or handled well. That is why it is important that you are aware of the symptoms of depression.
Signs that a person is depressed
Many individuals feel unhappy and negative because they’re clinically depressed. It can affect their mood, the way they think, and even their behavior – but it doesn’t need to!
There are ways for you, your friends, and your family to deal with this illness by seeking help from a doctor or therapist as soon as possible.
Here are some signs and symptoms of depression to watch out for:
- Brain fog (trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making daily life decisions)
- Feeling tired or fatigued most of the time
- Havings feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Pessimism and hopelessness
- Irritable mood
- Loss of interest in what used to be pleasurable activities
- Overeating or lack of appetite
- Feeling of emptiness
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
If you think you are experiencing the following and know someone who does, seek medical help immediately.
Depression is a very serious mental disorder that has been linked to major health risks, which underlines the importance of getting treatment for it. Antidepressant medication can help with depression symptoms and provide relief from severe bouts of sadness or anxiety.
Evaluating your life
Happiness is like a garden. It has to be tended – otherwise, weeds will settle back in and will grow, making it more difficult to take care of them the longer you let them go. And that is why finding negative behavioral and cognitive patterns that are making you unhappy can help make your day-to-day life easier.
It is important to be aware of what causes unhappiness and the habits that can lead to it. Being self-aware can help you address your problems head-on with a healthier strategy.
If you are feeling down or distressed with your current situation, don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help. Take care of yourself so that you’ll live a happier and more fulfilled life! Also, make sure that others know about these topics so they don’t fall victim to them as well.