“Happiness is not a goal. It is a by-product of a life well-lived.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Happiness largely depends upon ourselves and how we perceive the world around us. But most of us feel as though happiness is something out there that we need to really strive for and live in a state of never-ending unhappiness by chasing it. The more we chase the idea of happiness, the less happy we are likely to feel. We all expect success to result in happiness and in anticipation to achieve happiness, we constantly strive, compare, and seek for external validation which only adds to our unhappiness. When we postpone our happiness to something in future like getting a promotion or better marks or to next big thing, we experience discontentment and our wait often becomes endless as we never get to happiness and it seems to be forever eluding. Some people even indulge in unhappy thoughts and habits since they subconsciously believe that by taking the hard road and looking at things pessimistically, they can produce better results. Many times, we seem content to wallow in our own misery and indulge in unhappy thoughts and habits despite having it all.
Why are we addicted to unhappiness?
The more we strive for happiness, the more we get addicted to unhappiness. Our minds became increasingly skilled at predicting and avoiding danger in order ṭo survive. So our minds are still constantly on the lookout for problems. We tend to assess and judge almost everything we encounter: Is this good or bad? harmful or helpful? Not being able to measure up to ours or others’ expectations, we create negative, unhappy feelings and tend to put ourselves down. We spend lot of time worrying about things that, more often than not, never happen. Our basic human tendency is to belong to a group or a clan which makes us constantly worry about being rejected, Am I fitting in? or Am I doing the right thing? Am I as good as others? Because of today’s social media habits, we compare ourselves with a whole host of people who are more smarter, more powerful, or more successful or more admired than we are. We compare ourselves to an impossible standard and end up feeling not good enough, remain dissatisfied and unhappy.
There are several scientific studies indicating that many people have a feeling of being unhappy. According to David Sack, an expert in addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine, people who appear addicted to unhappiness tend ṭo find reasons to be miserable when life gets “too good”. He says they prefer to take the victim role and compete with others to see who has it the hardest. Here are some more signs according to him that say you are addicted ṭo unhappiness.
• Blaming others rather than taking the personal responsibility for your choices.
• Having difficulty in setting and achieving goals.
• Struggle to bounce back when things don’t go your way.
• Distract, escape or cope through other addictive or compulsive behaviors.
• Feel enslaved to your emotions and powerless to change.
• Avoid and procrastinate dealing with problems.
• Habit of judging yourself too harshly.
• Struggle to celebrate your goals.
• You have hard time putting things behind you.
• Feel dissatisfied even when life is going well.
• Complain about everything and worry about things that have not happened yet.
Most of the times, we compare, evaluate, criticise ourselves, focus on what we are lacking and get dissatisfied with what we have. Feelings of insecurity and lack of self-esteem also makes you feel undeserving of happiness. Growing up with excessive discipline, unrealistic expectations, or many negative experiences may fuel an unconscious desire to unhappiness. Negative emotions like anger, shame, guilt,and worry have an addictive quality that triggers the reward centres in brain. Negative emotions are fine in moderation, but toxic when indulged in regularly. You might find it hard to be happy if you are consumed by guilt or regret from your past decisions or experiences. By identifying the signs of unhappiness in your life, you can work towards improving your state of happiness.
What exactly is ‘Happiness’?
Happiness is a state characterised by contentment and general satisfaction with ones current situation. Usually it refers to a feeling that is a sense gladness or gratification. However, if we consider happiness as a feeling, its pursuit becomes unsatisfying and harder you pursue feelings of gratification, the more you are likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. So, happiness is neither a fleeting, momentary experience nor a permanent personality trait. It is a life of meaning, contentment and purpose. If you live in the direction that you consider valuable and worthy , when you clarify what you stand for in life and act accordingly, you attain a sense of fulfilment that is both deeply satisfying and long lasting.
Why is it important to break your habit of unhappiness?
When you are addicted to unhappiness, you get disconnected from the positive emotions. This decreases your creative thinking and reasoning. Unhappiness leads to stress and self-deprecating thoughts. By breaking your habit of unhappiness, you can learn how to handle such negative feelings differently and in such a way that they bother you a whole lot less. Unhappiness in your personal or professional endeavours is the result of a lack of intrinsic motivation and failure to cope with stress. In a happy state of mind, creative ideas flow in and you are better at problem-solving and decision-making. Happy people are more productive and are less prone to work-related stress and increases your motivation. It reduces depression, and improves wellness and immune activity as you experience positive emotions.
How to break your habit of unhappiness
Intention is the driving force behind being happy. You can break your habit of unhappiness by making a conscious decision to be happy and taking responsibility for your own happiness by changing your behaviour and thoughts. Here are some simple ways to do so.
Set yourself free from unhelpful and unhappy habits
Some of your habits and behaviour pull you down into unhappiness. Like for instance, procrastinating can make you guilty. Being unorganised or over-scheduling can make you feel inadequate when you fail to accomplish your tasks. Too many digital distractions can make you feel anxious, and depressed. Complaining, controlling and blaming others leads to stress. Obsessing about every detail and wanting everything to be perfect can lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. When you’re trying to quit bad habits you might get critical with yourself which can lead to bad moods. Instead of self-criticism, reassure yourself by making positive changes. Identifying such stressful habits and behaviours and understanding their triggers can help you implement change in your habits.
Find your flow
Flow is about enjoying what you do and is known as the state of optimal performance and engagement. Focusing and engaging fully in whatever you’re doing instead of dwelling on the past, or worrying about the future by concentrating on here and now, you can experience happiness. Being completely absorbed with what you’re doing and paying attention to what is happening in the moment can help you achieve happiness, satisfaction, and productivity.
Challenge your unhappy thought patterns
Happiness is largely determined by your thoughts and that’s what has your attention the vast majority of the time. You cannot control your thoughts but you can decide what is helpful and choose not to give the unhelpful thoughts too much importance or attention. Recognise thoughts, images and memories for what they are and allow them to come and go as they please, without fighting them, running from them or giving them more attention than they deserve. Label your ‘unhelpful’ thought patterns and consider more helpful ways to look at the problem. Your ‘should’ thoughts are just an insistence that the world bends to your will. Ban such thoughts as they tend to make you unhappy and frustrated. You can do so by setting realistic expectations.
Indulge in physical well-being
The more physically active you get, the greater will be your feeling of excitement and enthusiasm. Research has proved that walking, exercise and meditation promotes good health and improves one’s mood and increases feelings of happiness. In order to break your habit if unhappiness, follow a healthy regime coupled with exercise. Practicing mindfulness in everything you do to raise your level of happiness.
Focus on your values
Clarifying and connecting with your values is an essential step for making your life meaningful. Your values are reflections of what is most important in your heart: what sort of person you want to be; what is significant and meaningful to you; and what you want to stand for in this life. Your values provide direction for your life, and motivate you to make important changes. Happy life involves experiencing the right emotions based on your values and beliefs. Living your values is one of the way to add more happiness to everything you do.
“Happiness is the state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” – Ayn Rand
Gratitude can decrease depression symptoms as well as stress. When we focus on our appreciation and gratitude for the things and people in our lives, we activate the reward centre of brain and positive aspects of your life suddenly become more relevant to you. By recognising what you are grateful for, you acknowledge your needs and become aware of the needs of others too thereby helps you feel more connected to others. Start having a daily gratitude ritual -can be an act, can be maintaining a journal. Focus on big and small acts of gratitude and write down three to five things you’re grateful for every day.
Be mindful of your present moment
Developing present moment awareness helps you to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future with hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what you have. When we connect with the world directly through our five senses, rather than being caught up in our thoughts, we let our judgements, complaints, and criticisms come and go, and we fully engage in the present moment. When we are mindful of our own thoughts, we can see them for what they are, and let them go. When we are mindful of our feelings, we can make room for them and let them be. And when we are mindful of our here-and-now experience, we are deeply connected with our inner happy self.
Focus on what’s in your control.
You have little control over your thoughts, emotions, or over other people. You can only control your actions and how you direct your attention. You can break your habit of unhappiness by engaging fully in what you’re doing and taking action in line with your values, no matter how tiny that action is. Through effective action, guided and motivated by your values, you can improve your overall greater well-being and can focus on fulfilment and meaningful life.
We all have different ways of being happy and there isn’t an universal formula. Your life is the result of series of decisions you made that have caused you to arrive where you are. If who you are and what you have is what you want, do more of what you’ve been doing. But if you are not happy with who you are, what you have, and your current conditions, make happiness a conscious choice and work towards making some basic inner changes with the help of above strategies.
• Think about what unhelpful habits and behaviour of yours that you would want to change.
• Accept and take effective action to improve the problematic situations you encounter.
• Connect with your values; use them for guidance.
• Understand the source of your negative feelings.
• Proactively deal with your problems now rather than avoiding or procrastinating.
• Cultivate a sense of purpose. Keep setting meaningful goals and pursue them vigorously. At the same time, appreciate what you have in your life right now.
• The past doesn’t exist; it’s nothing more than memories in the present. And the future doesn’t exist; it’s nothing more than thoughts and images in the present. The only time you ever have is this moment. So make the most of it. Appreciate it in its fullness.