Do You Ask Yourself “Why Am I Always So Unhappy?”

Do You Ask Yourself "Why Am I Always So Unhappy?"

I recently received an email from a reader who said she woke up unhappy every day.

Before she even gets out of bed, she feels stressed and negative. The world simply does not look like a happy place to her.

Like most of us, she has some legitimately difficult things going on in her life. She is looking for a job and worried about money, and that is certainly stressful. But as she mentioned to me, she knows her life is generally pretty good.

Yet she still asked me, “Why am I always so unhappy?”

I think many people wake up with this same question in their heads. Every morning they awaken with anxiety, dissatisfaction, and negativity. Every morning they begin their day wondering why things are so bad, why life isn’t fun and enjoyable, why a dark cloud always seems to hover around them.

Of course some people feel unhappy and negative because they are clinically depressed. They are suffering from an illness that impacts chemicals in their brains that affect mood. Depression is a serious condition that requires medical treatment, so be sure you know the symptoms of depression.
 
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But for this post, I’m discussing general unhappiness — not clinical depression. (Although chronic unhappiness can lead to depression.)

Do you find yourself wondering why you are unhappy? Maybe, like I once did, you feel happiness is a random and fleeting feeling. Only when something really “good” happens in your life do you feel happy. So in this scenario, happiness is totally dependent on outside events. But we all know happiness must come from within. At least that’s what we’ve heard.

When you are in a state of near constant negativity and dissatisfaction with life, it’s hard to believe that happiness comes from within. How can it come from within when within you feel so unhappy? How can you “make yourself” feel happy when you aren’t?

Frankly, I don’t think it’s possible to “make yourself” feel happy. But I do know you can set up the conditions that foster happiness — and you can eliminate the conditions, thoughts, and behaviors that foster unhappiness.  Let’s look at these for a minute.

Unhappiness conditions

If you are frequently unhappy, you may have arranged your life and thoughts  to be the breeding ground for your unhappiness. Here are some conditions you can work on changing so they don’t create more dissatisfaction and negativity in your life.

You compare yourself to others. The more we define ourselves by what other people have, how they look, or what they have achieved, the more unhappy we become. The constant longing for something different and the feelings of jealously that comparison creates will agitate you and make you feel unhappy. How often do you compare yourself? Pay attention to this and begin to drop this bad habit.

You’re in debt. Money worries can feel overwhelming and cloud an otherwise happy life with worry and grief. When you’re constantly reminded that you owe money, you feel bad about yourself and unhappy with life. Just beginning the process of paying off your debt will make you feel lighter and happier. Need help with it? Read The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness.

You surround yourself with unhappy people. We are products of our environments. If you are surrounded by people who are negative and unhappy, they are going to infect you with their mood. Identify the people in your life who are frequently unhappy, and try to spend less time with them. Seek out people who have a positive and happy demeanor and attitude.

You’re bored. When you don’t have something going on in your life that is fun, engaging, or challenging, you will feel bored and uninspired. Life will feel flat and meaningless. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find something interesting to do with your time. Call a friend. Start walking or running. Join a book club. Staying active and around other people is a great antidote to unhappiness.

You hate your job. Since we spend so many hours a day at work, if you hate your job, you are spending most of your day unhappy. But you do have the power to change that. What is it you hate about your job? Is there anything you can change about it? If not, then start looking for another job. Just giving yourself permission to look will give you a happiness boost.

You don’t like your appearance. In this youth and beauty-focused culture, it’s not surprising so many people feel unhappy about the way they look. It’s hard to feel attractive when the standards for attractiveness have been set so unrealistically high. Look around you, and you’ll notice that most people are simply average in appearance (especially compared to models and celebrities). Make the most of your appearance by taking care of yourself, exercising, and dressing well. Look in the mirror every morning and tell yourself you love and accept yourself just as you are.

You don’t have a significant other. Everyone wants that special person in their lives, the one love who makes us feel happy and complete. When you are alone in a world of couples, life can be pretty lonely. If you find you are spending a lot of time alone or with couples, it’s time to find some single friends. Join single’s clubs or meet-ups, sign up for a dating service, join a gym where singles hang out. And while you are looking for your true love, appreciate all of the benefits of being single.

You aren’t paying attention to your health. If you feel bad physically, it will take a toll on your state of mind. If you don’t get enough sleep, if you are spending too many hours working, if you haven’t addressed a chronic health issue, you are going to feel depleted and unhappy. Your physical health can impact everything else in your life, so do what needs to be done to get healthy.

You are highly focused on money and material things. The longing for more money and more toys is the cause for so much dissatisfaction and unhappiness in life. Money and things might provide a temporary boost of happiness, but then you quickly become bored and long for the next thing or a higher income. Place more emphasis on relationships, experiences, and personal growth.

Happiness conditions

In addition to eliminating conditions from your life that foster unhappiness, you can also begin to add conditions that have been proven to boost our happiness levels. In her book, The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky reveals her research on what makes people feel happy. Here are some of the happiness-fostering strategies she outlines.

Count your blessings. Focus your thoughts on all of the good things and people you have in your life. Express sincere gratitude out loud or by journaling your feelings every day. Focusing on the positive will actually change your brain chemistry and boost  happiness feelings.

Cultivate optimism. Actively begin to change your outlook from negative to positive. Expect good things to happen, even if you have to fake it at first. Write a vision for yourself of your ideal life circumstances and review it regularly. Again, practicing optimism will begin to change your brain and feelings.

Practice acts of kindness. When you do good things for others and see how it positively impacts them, you feel happier. You know this instinctively, but it’s nice to know research has proven it.

Nurture your relationships. Our relationships are key to our happiness. Who are the people most important in your life? Who would you like to get closer to? Begin to cultivate and actively work on improving your relationships.

Review happy times mentally. Just thinking about happy events from the past can make you feel happier. Take some time every day to review past joys either in your mind or in writing. Make yourself remember the actual feelings you experienced during those joyful times.

Practice forgiveness. When we hold on to a hurt or a grudge, it’s like a thorny weed that continues to poke us and undermine our joy. Nothing good comes from staying angry or hurt. Let it go. Forgive. Move on.

Practice your religion, spirituality, or personal growth. Research has shown that people who are active with their faith or personal growth are happier. They are focused on improvement and something bigger than themselves that removes them from attention on ego-based concerns


If you find yourself in a state of constant unhappiness and dissatisfaction in life, begin the work of eliminating unhappiness fostering conditions and implementing strategies. Keep a journal of your efforts and rank your level of happiness (1 is very unhappy and 10 is very happy) every day. As you become skilled at “reconditioning” your life, you should see a dramatic improvement in your happiness.


Let’s start a conversation about feeling frequently unhappy. What has been your experience with long term unhappiness? How have you moved past it?

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Comments

  1. Excellent article Barrie! Finding happiness is an inside job! I think you’ve hit on all the points. So many people focus on the negative instead of looking for all the positive that is there in front of them. As a society we have such a negativity bias. So much weight and attention is place on negative events and positive things are overlooked or taken for granted. I’m a Happiness Teacher and my passion is to teach these concepts to others. It is possible to Retrain the Brain on how to focus our attention a different way!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Nina,
      So happy to meet you here! I look forward to seeing your site and work. Thank you so much for your comments. Yes we are a negativity-oriented society — especially in the media. It is an infectious disease that spreads from person to person. But just awareness is often enough to help shift us out of the negativity cycle of thinking and start spreading positivity.

  2. I have two things to share.

    1) Is the happiness equation which is simply that your happiness level is equal to the difference between your expectations and reality. Here’s youtube video on it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYvmjdqpT7Y

    2) I really enjoyed the book “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor. He provides a great summary of the book in his TED talk at http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work.html

  3. I found I became much happier when I accepted responsibility for my own happiness. I was so focused on helping others that I neglected myself. Realising the only person’s happiness I was responsible for was my own was the release of a huge burden.

  4. the article is really nice :) what it said is all true and actually everyone knows all the stuff discussed here but the thing is they have to feel it inside and start doing something about the negative surroundings around them. this article is a good start for people who wanna discover something and needed a boost . keep doing it

  5. I love this article so much!
    Thank you so much for sharing these insights and advices.
    Keep on keeping on!

    Love & Light

  6. This is very timely & useful for me Barrie. Thanks.

  7. Hi Barrie,

    It’s a beautiful insight when I read your article. Being happy is so easy if you just follow the conditions you have mentioned. Its wonderful to get connected to a person with such beautiful thoughts. I will definitely be looking forward to read more of your articles. I too am working at an Inspirational Training Organisation called Lifeschool. Do visit my website too for inspirational and true stories.

    Love always,
    Priya.

  8. I’m glad to see you this article written by nice, thank you!I hope I can become happier! I come from China。

  9. Im 15 and i have been unhappy for a while now. My family and friends notice it and it makes them sad, mad, and unhappy. I know that im young and that i should be happy but i hate my appearance and others do too. I find myself comparing myself to others countless times a day. Why aren’t i pretty why don’t people like me why dont boys like me. I care so much about what people think and i have terrible self esteem.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Caley,
      I am so sorry you are feeling unhappy in your life right now. I have two daughters who have gone through the same feelings when they were you age, so I completely understand your feelings. At 15, how your peers view you and how you compare to others is something that feels really important. And it seems so much value is placed on appearance, especially for girls. However, the emphasis on these things is lessened as you get older and as others around you are more mature and see the value in more important things. Real happiness comes from real, deep friendships and relationships and from accomplishing something in your life. Put your focus on achieving something — whether it’s your school work, a hobby, or an extracurricular activity. Work toward excellence in whatever that thing happens to be. Achievement definitely affords self-esteem and happiness. In the meantime, look for friends who don’t put so much emphasis on superficial things. They are out there. Things will get better, I promise.

  10. I don’t no i’m alawys unhappy nd depression bcoz i’m job less person.how it possible i’m alawys be happy pls suggest

  11. You never feel unhappy or depressed till the faces around make you feel sad..and really such relatives can’t be replaced from your life..its a common fact..

  12. I loved your article !!!
    I keep feeling unhappy about so many things of late.
    I keep comparing my life to other people’s and its a source of constant dissatisfaction to me to know they are so happy and im not !!
    I feel like runnin away.
    But i am now motivated to try to be happier with what i have :-)

  13. I think our life (to a certain extent) is shaped mentally froma young age. What’s ingrosed into us becomes a part of us as we grow older. It is important to give your children the right education, attitude and confedence. As we grow older, we learn new things and have different experiences in life and form relationships with people/partners and it is absulutely true, that you need to be with happy people that give you the right advise and confedence, instead of putting you down. Anyhow I am in an unhappy narriage where I beleive that there us no future but I carry in because my wife doesn’t want to break up….we have 3 children and I love them to bits but I cannot love my wife (we were arrange married).

  14. Hi I am 35 and feel like a ciomplete failure, I have it all lovely kids and a great husband. I have brought him down with my failings. I have no true friends feel really lost. Everyday I remember all the missed opportunities, I recently

  15. Why is there an emphasis on spirituality in modern psychology?

  16. I agree largely with the eliminating points. But not with the sustaining points. Maybe it’s just me, but then it seems to be promoting religion. Since when does science promote morals? lol..

    I would say to sustain happiness is to have a life vision, have good relationships (platonic, romantic or sexual), be active mentally and physically, remove oneself from negative people and situations, and have good confidence/self-esteem.

    • The question is how though. Everyone on here tells you what you should be thinking but have no helpful strategies.

  17. I really wish what you have posted could be true. If only. I tried for ten years to have a baby and when I was blessed with my little darling on the day of her birth she had to be cut out of me to save her life. Just in the nic of time then 11 months later I had a 11cm tumor cut out of me which took away half my pancreas and my spleen. I spent a long time in hospital with repeat admissions. This happened only 3 months ago and I spend everyday in fear unable to let go to enjoy my baby who I waited so long for. Everyday is consumed with unhappiness instead of the joy of my babys first years. I feel so desolate and so wronged. Some days I don’t even recognise my own thoughts they are so dark and filled with fear as to what can happen to me now. I just can’t let go to enjoy my baby and that fills me with the greatest unhappiness I gave ever known :(

    • Dear Sam,

      I know it sounds like such a weak statement, but hang in there, things will get better. I remember the first few months after my son was born. I really wanted him before he was born. I had a fairly stressful pregnancy which resulted in high blood pressure/preeclampsia and after that I was pretty depressed. I would get the unwelcome scary thoughts and then I would feel terrible that I would let the thoughts would creep in. I have since learned that these thoughts were not my fault. That was 9 and a half years ago. My son is a strong, healthy, kid and I am here to enjoy it. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are no doubt very tired and your poor body has been through a lot. Your daugher will be fine and you will have plenty of time to enjoy her in the next few years. Right now she needs her Mom to keep going and get healthy. You and your daughter have survived and will continue to survive. It takes a long time to heal but you WILL heal. Also babies at this age can be kind of boring and it can be lonely for Moms. And the lack of sleep doesn’t help either.

  18. I love your article. I am 26. I was involved in a unhealthy relationship with my childs father. It was verbal and mental abuse. I felt bullied in this situation. I had post partum depression after having my daughter. But now since shes 1 & her father and I are no longer together. I still am unhealthy, depressed help me plz.

  19. Well I have been unhappy and depressed my whole life even when I’m doing things I love.i just sit and stare and can’t wait till its over with.My family says I have a distant look in my eyes I’m never happy.And yes I do take medicine and I do see someone, it does no good.There are people like me that have never been molested or anything and are still unhappy …I am pretty much the walking depressed:(

  20. Maria Marques says:

    Thanks for your article that write very nice, yeah I found my self unhappy because of people around me, I have a good job but I have a friend and Partner always broken my day, sometimes I feel so bad, I regret why I have to meet with people who always give me bad time, but at the same time I can,t remove them from my life…..it was make me given up and try my best to accept the situation, wish me luck

  21. alwaysOnBlue says:

    Im 35, brazilian, system analyst, good job, comming from a poor family, unhappy all time since 7 years old, until sleeping sad, my dream are sad, thinking about suicide since childhood, wishing death every second.

  22. Dutchie says:

    This is a great article and some interesting comments too, albeit a few sad ones. I often feel unhappy. Very lonely. Hating myself. Why is that? I have a lovely husband (we’re more like friends really and often question our marriage but know it could be worse!), 2 fantastic children, live in a great place in Devon. I work and enjoy it. But I am unhappy. I personally feel that it stems from my upbringing (I could write a book about this!) but still, this is no excuse. I never thought I’d have a life like this, being married, living in a nice house with children and 2 cats and having some lovely friends. I am still negative but I know it’s only me/you that also suffer from daily unhappiness, that can change this.

  23. I am currently experiencing many unhappy thoughts, and it pains me. I am married with 4 lovely children, my husband is very helpful and actively involved in raising our 4 young children, and I have a good career in education. But, I am negative and critical to a fault. I agree with the comments about family and upbringing – I can recall listening to my mother and her sisters judge and criticize other members of our family when they were not present, and as I grew up, I felt like contributing to those conversations was a way of being validated by my family. Today, I criticize my husband and am very controlling with my children. I want everything to be done just so, and if it isn’t, I get upset. I am worried about my husband leaving (although he says he never would), but I am also worried that my children will lack self-esteem because of my negative attitude. Although I am conscious of my nitpicking ways, I just can’t seem to turn things around. Perhaps journaling would be a good start…

  24. im always sad even if i have everything i ever wanted

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