10 Habits of Unhappy People and How to Break Them
We all experience days or times when we feel unhappy. Nobody can be entirely happy 100% of the time; it is perfectly normal to have ups-and-downs in life. Ideally, we should try to minimize those down times and try to feel happy as often as possible. It makes everything in our lives go more smoothly. We perform better at work, sleep better, feel better, and have better relationships the happier that we feel.
Some people, however, seem to have a disproportionate number of unhappy days. We all know someone who looks and acts like they are down too many days out of the week. Or maybe we are the ones who fall into that category.
These people tend to have several qualities in common. Most of these qualities are simply bad habits that they have developed over the years and have not been able to break. Maybe they don’t even realize they have these habits, or that breaking them is actually possible, so they have never tried. Below is a list of ten bad habits that are shared by many unhappy people, along with a solution for breaking each of them. If you find that some or all of these apply to you, I encourage you to try work on them, one at a time. It may not be easy at first, but it is by no means impossible. And the rewards you receive will be numerous.
1. Seeing the Negative in Every Situation
Most unhappy people are pessimists. Rather than trying to look for the bright side of a situation, they always find and focus on the negative. They are always expecting the worst possible outcome for any given situation. Even when something good does happen, they tend to downplay the benefit and predict that their good fortune won’t last.
To break this habit, learn to catch yourself when you start to have negative thoughts. One thing that I have learned through meditation is that actions are triggered by feelings, and feelings are triggered by thoughts. If you can become aware of your thoughts as soon as you have them, you can try to change them before they start to affect your emotions. The next time you get some news or something unexpected happens, make a conscious effort to look for the good in it. This will take some time, but the more you practice having happy thoughts and a positive attitude the easier it will become for you.
2. Complaining Too Much
It’s normal to complain every once in a while. It’s just a natural way to release a little steam when things don’t go the way we expected. But unhappy people seem to complain all the time. They not only see the negative in every situation, but they like to talk about it, dwell on it, and make it the center of the conversation. Rather than learning how to let go of the situation and move on from it, they prefer to bring others into it and let it continue much longer than it needs to it.
To break this habit, you first must become aware of what you are doing. Again, learn to watch your thoughts and notice when you are having a negative one. Catch yourself before you let that thought get the best of you. Consider whether any benefit will come from complaining. Sometimes it will, like if you are at a store or restaurant and you have received bad service. In that case, complaining politely can correct the situation. But if you are complaining simply for the sake of it, try not to. It only depresses those around you who have to listen to your complaint, and does nothing to improve the situation.
3. Feeling Jealousy or Envy
Rather than celebrating the successes of those around them, unhappy people will be jealous or envious of their achievements. They will typically wonder “Why not me?” when they see someone get a benefit or perk that they don’t have. They will talk about how that person didn’t deserve it or perhaps even acted inappropriately to get it.
To break this habit, make an effort to be happy for someone else’s good fortune. Realize that feeling jealous or envious only hurts you, and doesn’t change anything. Instead, think about what you could do differently in your own life to get some of the benefits that those around you have received. Congratulate them on their success and sincerely ask for advice if the situation allows for it. Maybe you will learn something that will help you achieve those same successes one day.
4. Feeling Like Victims
Along with feeling jealous of others, unhappy people tend to feel like life just doesn’t treat them fairly. They feel that any misfortune that takes place in their life is not their fault and never the result of any decision or action that they have taken. They feel like other people are out to get them, have a hard time trusting others, and question the intention of anyone who offers to help them. They have a “woe is me” attitude and don’t mind sharing their sentiments with anyone who is willing to listen.
To break this habit, you have to first become aware of what you are thinking. Have you seen the trend yet? Most of these habits develop because we allow our thoughts to run wild instead of making an effort to control them. Remember, you are the one who is having these thoughts so you can change them whenever you want. Start out by determining what is making you think this way, then try to change whatever is triggering these thoughts of being victimized. Take responsibility for the events that happen in your life. Look for where you could have done something differently that would have led to a different outcome. And if something truly was out of your control, realize that bad things happen to everyone, not just to you. I am sure that if you look carefully you will find someone who has more misfortunes than you.
5. Believing They Have No Control
People who are unhappy tend to believe that they have no control over what happens to them. They don’t see the opportunities that may be available to them to make improvements in their lives. As a result, they feel helpless and lost. They don’t understand the power that they actually have to make positive changes for themselves and by themselves.
To break this habit, think about all the areas in your life where you do have full control. Realize that all of us encounter circumstances and situations that are beyond our control and that it’s normal. Learn to identify and separate those from the ones where you can have some influence. By focusing on what you are capable of controlling and changing, you will slowly start to feel more powerful and confident. Start by making small changes that will bring about positive results and you will soon see how much control you really do have over your life.
6. Holding on to Grudges or Resentment
Unhappy people have a hard time forgiving. They not only feel slighted or hurt by incidents that many others might simply brush off, but they also develop long and unnecessary grudges against people. These grudges not only affect their relationships, but they also affect their own emotional well-being. They don’t realize that when they refuse to forgive, they are hurting themselves much more than they are hurting the other person.
To break this habit, realize that the number one reason people have a hard time forgiving is because they still feel anger. Figure out why you are still feeling angry about something that happened in the past. Then think about how much better you would feel if you could release all that anger. Consider that the person who upset you is only human and made a mistake. Try to be compassionate and separate the person from the act. You don’t have to excuse the act in order to forgive the person. If you learn to separate the two, it will become much easier for you to let go of the anger and resentment.
7. Overreacting to Minor Problems
For unhappy people, every little negative thing that happens in their lives can become a major occurrence. Something that to many of us would be just a temporary annoyance can be a big problem to them.
To break this habit, learn to apply some perspective to the events in your life. When something happens, ask yourself “Is this just a small, temporary set back? What are the real consequences of this event?” Assess it fairly instead of just overreacting to something that really doesn’t warrant that much concern. Adjust your reaction accordingly.
8. Ignoring Real Problems
While small problems can be made into big ones, sometimes the really big problems are ignored by unhappy people. If a problem seems too big for them to deal with, they prefer to sweep it under the rug and pretend that it doesn’t exist. This is particularly true with any problem that stems from them and their attitude, choices or actions. Taking responsibility and finding a solution to a real problem that they created or keep perpetuating is more than they want to handle.
To break this habit, learn to take an honest look at yourself. We all make mistakes, and there is no reason to judge yourself too harshly. But you are also not doing yourself any favors when you pretend that you are not the cause of a particular problem. Taking responsibility for your choices and actions will help you to feel more capable and empowered. When you are faced with a problem that seems too daunting, take the time to assess it carefully. Try to break the problem down into smaller components that you can address one at a time. That way the problem won’t seem so difficult to deal with and you will be able to see noticeable progress as you work on it.
9. Congregating with Other Unhappy People
As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together. Unhappy people enjoy the company of other unhappy people because they provide affirmation for their emotions. Another unhappy person will see life the same way that they do and instead of offering them a better way, will support them and their attitude.
To break this habit, identify the people in your life who tend to be unhappy, pessimistic, or complainers. Determine why you are spending time with them. Is it because they tend to reinforce your own negative attitudes and habits? If so, make a conscious choice to start minimizing how much time you spend with them, or at least to not allow their attitude or behavior to affect your own. Seek out the company of more positive, happy and optimistic people. You will see that by spending more time with people whose behavior you want to emulate, you will slowly start to think and act more like them.
10. Living in Either the Past or the Future
People who tend to be unhappy spend more time thinking about either the past or the future than they do enjoying the present. They are either reminiscing about a better time and past glories, or they are hoping for a brighter future. Or if they are really pessimistic, they keep replaying all their past misfortunes and injustices, whether real or perceived, in their minds. And they worry about what future misfortunes are awaiting them. They tend to believe one of two things: either everything will magically get better one day without any effort on their part, or that things will always continue to be bad or maybe get even worse.
To break this habit, become more aware and mindful of your thoughts. Understand that your thoughts will directly affect your emotions. The best way to become more mindful is through meditation. Starting a meditation practice will greatly improve your ability to focus on the present and to not concern yourself with the future or the past. Meditation has taught me that all I have (and all of us have) is now. The past is forever gone, and the future will always be beyond our reach. Enjoy this moment and all that it has to offer before it also is gone forever.