While there are many factors out of our control that can make us feel unhappy, there are plenty of things we can look at and change to live a happier life. These are the things that deserve our consistent attention because they don’t change overnight. When we are practicing these shifts a little bit each day, we can expect our overall happiness and life satisfaction to increase.
We can’t dismiss the impact of grief, depression and other conditions that affect our mental health. That plays a big part in feeling unhappy. Talk to the people closest to you and/or a medical professional when you need support. Having a bad day once in a while is different than only having a good day once in a while.
7 life mistakes that make us feel unhappy
1. We forget that what we have is what we really wanted at some point.
When we feel unhappy with what we have; a job, a relationship, where we live, what we own, what we wear or anything else, it’s time to remember that once upon a time, these were the things we really wanted. What changed? This isn’t to say that things should stay the same, but connecting with some level of appreciation for what you’ve created may help you see things in a different light. Even if it is time to let go of something, gratitude for how you got there could make you feel happier during the transition.
2. We put too much weight on the end result.
We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s about the journey, not the destination,” but when we feel unhappy working towards a goal it’s usually because we are so focused on where we are going, or how far away we are that we forget where we are now, and why we are pursuing this goal in the first place. Check in. Maybe the goal needs to change. Was it even your goal to begin with or an expectation that someone else had for you? What parts of the journey are you enjoying, which parts are you doing because you think you have to in order to make it to the goal you might not care about anymore? Give yourself permission to take a new path, even if you don’t know where it will end up.
3. We let guilt and regret distract us from our lives.
Guilt and regret remove us from our lives. We feel unhappy and we struggle to reconnect with the present moments and simple pleasures that are right in front of us. You might feel guilty when you don’t feel like you got enough done, or when you have to say no or set a boundary with someone you love. You may even feel guilty when you get sick and have to take time off to rest. People tell me they feel guilty for relaxing and doing nothing or not attending an event they don’t want to attend. If you can relate and have felt guilty for these things, I’d like to suggest that you aren’t feeling guilty. Instead, you are feeling discomfort for taking care of yourself.
Regret is fueled by reliving and and trying to change the past. The pain of the past can help us make decisions about moving forward but spending your time wondering what things would have been like if you’d done things differently only removes you from feeling better now. You will constantly miss out on the potential joys of the present moment by looking back and wishing for a better outcome. Perhaps it’s time to move forward. If trying to rework the past has become a persistent habit for you, try allowing yourself a few minutes each day to reflect through journaling. Get it off your mind and write it down. Before you wrap up your journaling session, write a sentence or two about something happening now that makes you smile. Keep coming back to today.
4. We do too many things.
It’s true. We have a lot to do and keep up with but we often make the mistake of measuring who we are by what we get done so we never feel like we are doing enough. Or, we compare ourselves to others who are doing more and try to catch up. The real mistake here though is ignoring our own personal time and energy availability. Instead of asking, “how much can I get done?” ask, “How much do I want to give or how much do I have to give?” It may feel selfish to even ask the question. If it does, check in on how you are feeling. Overwhelm, exhaustion, and having no idea what delights you anymore are a few of the signs and signals that indicate you’ve given yourself to everyone but you.
5. We care too much about what other people think.
Caring less about what other people think is the ultimate form of self-care. Usually, when we think people are thinking about us, they aren’t. And when they are, their thoughts are more about them, or their mood or their point of view. What would you do if you cared a little bit less about what they thought, what their expectations were, and who you thought you were supposed to be for everyone else? What would you make if you weren’t worried about sharing it and hearing anyone’s thoughts on your art? Who would you be if you trusted you first and the rest was just background noise that you could turn down as needed?
6. We spend too much time being frustrated.
How do you respond when things don’t go the way you want them to go? Being upset and frustrated takes a lot of energy. Before you fall into a frustration spiral that turns into stress and anxiety, check in. Ask yourself what’s really bothering you. Then make a list of potential solutions, people who can help and what you might be able to do in order to let the air out of the frustration balloon.
When you feel frustrated or disappointed, could you find some relief in accepting the reality of the situation and moving on? This “check-in” will require a pause and a look at what you are contributing to any situation. As Byron Katie says, “It’s not the problem that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem.”
7. We don’t know when it’s time to let go.
We convince ourselves that letting go of things is hard, so we hold on. The truth is that holding on is harder. We have to hold on every day, questioning our decisions and keeping things in our lives that weigh us down. Whether you want to let go of stuff and clutter, a relationship, a job, an old goal, idea, thought or belief, give yourself permission to know when it’s time.
If you are ready to feel happier, prioritize your joy even before you stop making these mistakes (that all of us make from time to time). I look forward to waking up because I know there are a few simple pleasures waiting for me. When I make my coffee, I appreciate how it smells and how lovely it will be to enjoy it while I call my daughter to chat about the day. If you have a coffee or tea in the morning, or a morning walk or another simple ritual, ask yourself if you consider it a regular part of your day or if you allow it to help you feel happier by seeing it as a simple pleasure.