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It’s often hard to be happy with all the stresses and strains of life.
Maybe that’s not the problem, though. Maybe you were happy before but now nothing makes you happy. Life doesn’t always change for the better.
However, there are several things you can do if nothing brings you joy and happiness.
It’s not easy. Improving your mindset and mental health does require work, making changes to your life, and patience. LOTS of patience.
How can you feel better, be happier, and find joy?
Let’s start by exploring why nothing seems to make you happy so that you can take decisive action and learn how to enjoy things again.
Why Am I Not Happy?
You may be asking yourself, “Why does nothing make me happy anymore? Why is nothing enjoyable anymore?”
These are fair questions if you’re struggling to feel the happiness that you want to have.
There are several reasons why you may not feel satisfaction, joy, or happiness, the most common of which are listed below.
It is a good idea to speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you figure out what is preventing you from feeling happiness and what steps to take to remedy that. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
Cortisol is produced by your body when it comes under stress to help get you through a temporary, bad situation.
For example, you may find yourself in danger. Your brain signals to your body that you are in danger and it starts up different physiological processes that will maximize your ability to survive—one of which is the production of cortisol.
Cortisol is perfectly fine and healthy in small doses. The issue is that cortisol can be incredibly harmful to your body over the long term. You have probably heard that stress can cause heart attacks or strokes, and cortisol is part of the reason why.
The long-term presence of cortisol may also cause hormonal imbalances that affect mental health.
2. Mental illness.
The fact that mental illness can affect one’s happiness shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
Persistent, lingering negative emotions may be symptoms of a mental illness or mental health problem that needs to be addressed.
Lack of joy, motivation, or just generally feeling down for long periods of time could point to anxiety, depression, or other problems that require professional help.
3. Personal relationships.
The people you spend your time with impact your emotional state and stress. You will find your happiness level decrease if you hang around with negative, stressful people.
There’s a common belief that you can uplift people who are down if you try hard enough. Sometimes that’s true. However, that doesn’t work over the long term. It’s much easier to be negative than it is to be positive.
Negativity is far more infectious, particularly among people who don’t want to be happy or feel better. Some people just want to stew in their anger or sadness and no amount of trying to help will make them want otherwise. At some point, you have to decide to protect your own space and happiness.
4. Bad habits.
A person is the sum of their habits. Bad habits lead to unhealthiness and unhappiness for many reasons.
For example, let’s say you have an inconsistent sleep schedule and drink a lot of coffee, energy drinks, or other sugary drinks to stay awake and functional when you’re tired.
The mood-balancing chemicals that your brain needs to function during the next day are produced in the deepest stages of sleep. If you aren’t sleeping consistently, then it’s much harder for your brain to produce those chemicals.
Then there is the matter of the caffeinated or sugary drinks. They aren’t all that healthy for you and caffeine interferes with your ability to sleep. These drinks can make depression and anxiety worse as they put your nervous system into overdrive.
Bad habits affect your happiness physiologically. Changing your habits may help improve your happiness and perspective.
5. Substance use.
Many people indulge in substance use to self-medicate their problems or just to try to have some additional fun. The simple truth is that putting anything in your body can affect your internal chemistry.
Alcohol and drugs can affect your body and mind in a way that facilitates negativity. The same can also be said about indulging in too much food, drink, coffee, or energy drinks.
There are many proponents of marijuana usage out there that insist there are few to no health implications of using it. That assertion is simply wrong.
6. Unreasonable expectations.
People often feel disappointed when their expectations are not met. That’s difficult because one must consider whether or not their expectations are reasonable to begin with.
If you don’t have reasonable expectations, then you will find yourself disappointed, angry, or sad regularly.
That might be at work where you are expecting to have a great day, a raise, or get something specific accomplished. It’s frustrating when your expectations are not met.
Relationships are another source of unreasonable expectations. So many people are out there looking for their “One” so they can live happily ever after. The problem is that people are messy creatures—the right fit for you may not meet your expectations at all. They may only meet some of them. You may never meet a “One” that is in perfect harmony with you and your life.
Frankly, tying your happiness to a relationship altogether is rarely a good idea. Sure, the relationship can add to your happiness, but it can’t be the sole source.
What does science say about happiness?
Joy, happiness, and satisfaction have become some of the most studied subjects in psychology More people than ever are asking:
“Why does nothing make me happy?”
“Why does nothing bring me joy anymore?”
“Why is nothing fun anymore?”
Psychologists aim to answer these questions through the application of the scientific method. It turns out that many preconceived notions we hold about happiness are wrong or come with caveats.
Those preconceived notions make it much harder to improve your mental health and find happiness again.
1. Much of what the average person believes about happiness is wrong.
Many of the things that you believe will make you happy don’t make you happy in the way that you may think.
The author of Stumbling on Happiness, psychologist, and Harvard psychology professor Dr. Daniel Gilbert studies our perceptions of happiness and misery.
What he found is that people often overestimate just how happy or miserable an event will make them.
Yes, you will be happier if you’re in a healthy relationship, make more money, or accomplish your goals. The problem is that we still look for silver linings in those events to tell ourselves that they will make us happier than is actually the case.
In reality, the happiness these situations provide is often a brief improvement before your mind settles again.
Similarly, misery would often be less intense if we didn’t focus so much on the miserable circumstance.
It’s reasonable to be sad and in the dumps if you lose a relationship, a job, or have any kind of negative experience. The problem is that we tend to focus on, ruminate, and make the situation worse for ourselves.
Most people are more resilient than they give themselves credit for. Better coping skills and a change in what you allow yourself to believe about your happiness can help if you don’t find joy in life anymore.
2. There isn’t much difference between true, created, and fleeting happiness.
The term “true happiness” isn’t quite accurate. In fact, there are different kinds of happiness.
True happiness occurs when an event in your life provides a natural response of happiness and joy.
Created happiness is something that you create for yourself. You may find that visiting with people, gardening, or exercising helps you create happiness.
Fleeting happiness is when you experience a positive experience that makes you happy.
However, none of these states are necessarily better than the others. They can all boost your spirits when nothing makes you happy anymore.
The problem may be that you spend so much time focusing on one that you aren’t letting yourself just experience the happiness.
“Well, that’s not true happiness, so I’m not really happy.” Research disagrees with that assertion. Instead, research tells us that all different types of happiness are valid if you’ll just let yourself experience it without picking it apart.
3. We value negativity too much.
Quick! Name a happy artist!
You may find that it’s difficult to come up with one immediately. However, it’s incredibly easy to think of the miserable and struggling. We tend to focus on artists we view as tragic like Vincent van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway.
But why? Maybe it’s because they are more relatable to the average person. Many people tend to romanticize misery and suffering with the creation of high-quality, meaningful art.
That isn’t the case at all. Sure, there are plenty of artists who’ve created great works when they were miserable and depressed but there are many more that haven’t.
It’s difficult to dedicate the time to develop an artistic style when you’re too depressed, unhappy, or unstable to do consistent work. Artists like van Gogh and Hemingway didn’t just accidentally stumble into their skill and quality. They both worked hard to develop their skill; just as hard as happier artists like Diego Vélasquez and John Constable.
And what many people don’t consider is that both artists also sought help to improve their happiness—van Gogh checked himself into an asylum and Hemingway sought help from psychologists going so far as to participate in electrotherapy for his depression.
Common Myths About Happiness
Myths make it much harder to make an informed decision that may guide you to a solution. Of course, there are several myths about how to be happy. Understanding these myths may help you find more joy and stop being miserable.
1. Happy people are always happy.
Don’t assume that happy people are always happy. People that look happy also feel the other spectrum of emotions they should be feeling.
Allowing yourself to feel the full spectrum of emotions helps you become happier in the long term because feeling those other emotions gives your brain time to process and work through them.
Negative emotions can fester, derailing your happiness if you never let yourself feel angry or sad, for instance.
Furthermore, there are plenty of people who may be dealing with mental illnesses or life’s problems who still wear a smile on their faces. It’s easy to appear to be fine if that’s what you want to do. All it takes is a bright smile and not talking about what you actually feel.
2. Acquiring more will make you happy.
There’s an old saying that “Money can’t buy happiness.” Like most pithy one-liners, that phrase doesn’t clearly communicate the entire story.
Shockingly, money can buy happiness. For some, buying a new thing or some stuff might give them a bit of fleeting happiness. But fleeting is all it is. You may feel good for a bit and then those good feelings go away.
Money certainly buys happiness when you’re paying for security—that is, when you can afford groceries, pay your bills, and have a roof over your head. It’s hard to be happy when you’re living one disaster away from homelessness.
Yes, stuff will make you happy temporarily. Experiences will make you happier than stuff, though both experiences and stuff only provide fleeting happiness.
3. Positive thinking will make you happy.
Does positive thinking matter? Yes, it does. Of course, the world is full of cynics who will loudly proclaim that it doesn’t.
Then you have folks who are dealing with difficult life situations or mental illness who may not feel like positive thinking helps them at all. That’s true to some degree. You can’t out-think mental illness or terrible life situations that you may be going through.
However, to say that positive thinking doesn’t matter at all isn’t correct either. Your thoughts often drive your emotions. If your thoughts lean toward the negative, bitter, or cynical then those are the emotions that you’re more likely to feel.
The good news is that there is a third option: if you can’t be happy, just try to not be negative. You don’t have to try to find the silver lining in terrible situations. You can just let the situation be what it is.
What you want to avoid is dwelling in the negativity of the situation if you’re able. The more you dwell on the negativity, the worse it’s going to feel and be.
4. People with less are happier.
There is a common myth that people who have less are happier because of it.
The message is that you should give up more of your things, sacrifice ambitions, and just be happy with less because people with less are supposed to be happier.
In fact, the opposite is true.
This trope is harmful to disadvantaged people because it causes advantaged people to sympathize less. After all, if you have less, then surely you’re happier with less responsibility.
As anyone who’s lived in poverty can tell you: not having much is incredibly stressful. Can you pay your bills? Are you going to get to eat more than one meal every other day? Can you pay your rent?
Not having much, or enough, makes you more vulnerable to the ebb and flow of life. You’re not going to be happy if your car breaks down, you don’t have enough money to get it fixed, and lose your job because your local public transportation is unreliable.
5. Earning the approval of others will make me happy.
Do you have a need for approval? Do you think that you will be happier if you can make someone proud of you, envy you, or have an accomplishment to point at?
Earning the approval of others is not a good way to live your life. You can’t hinge your happiness on the whims and desires of other people.
What if the person you’re seeking approval from is a miserable person? You may ask, “Well, why would I seek approval from a miserable person?”
The truth is that many people do. They may want approval from a neglectful, abusive parent or a romantic partner who just isn’t all that good of a person.
By seeking approval, you are essentially handing the keys to your happiness and sadness to that person.
At the core of the desire for approval is a need or want for attention. A desire for attention isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Attention is just another type of socialization. It may not be that you’re looking for approval by seeking approval at all. Instead, consider whether or not you’re lonely. Lonely people often seek approval as a means to socialize and connect with others even when it’s not healthy.
6. The best years of my life are behind me.
Far too many people think that getting older means you have to leave the good times of your life behind you. That couldn’t be further from the truth. However, you can easily make it your truth if you buy into this myth.
There are plenty of things you can do with your present and future if you take care of yourself and keep working toward it.
Sure, life has its ups and downs. No one’s denying that. You may be going through a difficult time right now or may not have had as good of experiences as you did in the past.
That shouldn’t stop you from trying to make the most of right now and what’s to come. The great thing about getting older is that you also develop a better understanding of who you are, what you want out of life, and greater wisdom to pursue it.
The best years of life can be ahead of you if you want them to be.
How Can I Be Happier?
1. Take stock of your situation to identify what is harming your happiness.
People have so much going on in their daily lives that it is hard for them to keep up with everything.
So, the first step is to take inventory of your life and present situation.
What are the neutral and negative things that you are currently dealing with? Neutral things count because they require an investment of emotional energy to take care of, and they aren’t likely to be providing any positive lift to your life.
Consider the different stresses that you’re currently dealing with. Is it work? Is it friends? Is it life in general? Is it your bills? Is it a lack of time?
Ask yourself, “Why does nothing make me happy?” Then, make a list of what you think is making you unhappy and causing you stress.
2. Consider which of these problems can be solved and how.
That list of negative and neutral things going on in your life is an action plan. These are the problems that you need to invest energy into resolving so that you can free the emotional energy that you’re spending on them.
Do you have friends and family that are abusive or make you feel bad? It might be time to reevaluate just how much time you’re giving them. You don’t want to spend your valuable time with emotional vampires or abusers who will leech your happiness away.
Is your job a constant source of stress? Are there any ways that you can mitigate that stress? Change departments in your current job? Ask to work under a different manager? Start looking for other work that might not have as much stress?
Is a lack of money the problem? Can you work out a budget to see where your money is being spent and whether or not you can control it? Are there frivolous things you can cut out to give you more money to throw at getting out of debt? Are there ways that you can make a few extra dollars without burning yourself out?
Resolve whatever issues you can. Finding joy in life is hard when you’re constantly under these stresses.
3. Take some time to play, exercise, and rest.
Do you live a busy lifestyle? Have a thousand things to do with work, your relationship, and kids to wrangle? Do you have deadlines looming? Need to get groceries from the store? Need to tackle that sink full of dishes? Need to hack your way through that pile of laundry?
There will always be something more to do. That’s why it’s so important to practice self-care and make it part of your routine.
You need rest and play to give yourself a chance to recover. Block out time in your busy schedule for it if you can’t easily fit it in otherwise. If you don’t, the responsibilities that you must take care of will eat away at it.
Exercise is so important for maintaining a happy mental space. Not only do you keep in shape and keep your body healthy, but you also cause your brain to produce the chemicals that you need to be a happier person.
Exercise is always a net positive for your overall well-being. The human body was not built to be sedentary, even though our modern lifestyles promote it.
Create the time and space for self-care. Treat it with the same gravity as any of your other responsibilities. It is that important!
4. Eat healthier and drink more water.
Are you drinking water? Probably not enough, with the way processed foods and sugary drinks can dehydrate us.
Healthy eating and water are two essential parts of maintaining good mental health. An unhealthy diet can worsen your moods and make you feel more negative emotions by dragging your thoughts into a negative space.
Food and drink are not just enjoyable things, but they are also necessary fuel that your body and mind need to stay healthy and active. Make sure you’re putting good things into your body.
And while you’re at it, cut back on the not-so-good things.
Junk food is precisely that—junk. Much of it is engineered to be tasty but not necessarily nourishing. Reduce your intake of junk food, caffeine, alcohol, and other substances that might bring your mind down and keep you from experiencing your happiness.
5. Meditate to help process and clear out your emotions.
Meditation is an incredible tool for creating peace of mind and clarity, which makes room for more happiness and joy in your life.
Meditation is a directed, intentional act that you use to process emotions, feel them, and let them go. The stress and negative emotions that you carry with you need to be vented off and set free from your mind.
No, meditation will not magically cause your problems to go away or make you okay with things that you shouldn’t be okay with. What it will do is help clear out some of the emotional baggage and negativity that may be occupying your thoughts.
Search the internet or an app store and you will be able to find many guided meditations and meditations for beginners.
6. Reconnect with people, places, and hobbies that used to bring you joy.
Nurturing happiness back into a healthy place requires dedicating time to the things that bring you happiness and joy.
That could be hobbies, a place you love to be, or positive people that you like to spend time with.
Maybe it’s a romantic partner or a dear friend that you just have to catch back up with. Perhaps it’s tending to your garden so you can watch it grow and blossom.
Spend some time reconnecting with the things that bring you happiness and fulfillment. Make it a regular habit to partake in these activities so that you can continue building on those positive things.
And if you have no passions or hobbies, now is the time to find some.
7. Develop healthier habits with technology.
Technology is a powerful tool that can both help and harm, depending on how you use it.
Social media is a powerful piece of technology that can help you discover interesting things, meet new people, and keep up with friends and family.
However, social media platforms are also engineered to keep your eyes and attention on that platform. These companies employ behavioral psychologists and similar professionals to take advantage of addictive behaviors.
That, of course, creates unhealthy use of social media platforms. In addition, you run into the issue of what kind of content you are shown on your feed. Angry, frustrating news is everywhere which will rob you of your happiness.
Then there’s the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) and the envy created by others sharing pictures and stories from their life. These stories often aren’t true or don’t tell the whole story. They’re curated to get likes, be shareable, and draw attention.
Limiting social media use may help improve your overall mental health.
8. Consider professional help if you are struggling.
Serious mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and trauma will need to be tackled with the assistance of a knowledgeable professional so that you can find your happiness and start caring about things again.
If you find that you can’t reconnect with your happiness or get into a better mental space, it would be a good idea to consult with a mental health professional to work toward a solution.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Online therapy is actually a good option for many people. It’s more convenient than in-person therapy and is more affordable in a lot of cases. And you get access to the same level of qualified and experienced professional.
Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.