The road to happiness is an individual path that we all walk alone.
Every person has challenges in their mind and life that can prevent them from finding the happiness they desire.
That may be a difficult home life, being underemployed, or dealing with a mental illness that makes it hard to experience happiness.
We can add happiness to our lives with social contacts and relationships. Still, those things can only add to our happiness rather than create it. Happiness created by an external source will go away if we lose that external source.
Thus, we need to work on cultivating and developing our happiness from within.
The most effective way to do that is to determine what is preventing you from finding your happiness.
So let’s have a look at 25 reasons why you may be unhappy…
1. You’ve surrounded yourself with negative people.
There’s an old saying that goes something like, “You are who you surround yourself with.” This saying has been tweaked and paraphrased in many ways to cover different aspects of social interaction.
If you surround yourself with negative people, then your mind will come down to their level to function in that negativity.
If you surround yourself with dishonest people, well, you’d be a fool to be honest with those people because they would take advantage of you.
If you’re surrounded by angry people, you’ll have a hard time being a calm person because you’re just going to get barreled over by the intensity of their strong emotions.
But the opposite is also true.
It’s much easier to be a kind person when you’re surrounded by other kind people.
You can learn much more and find inspiration from surrounding yourself with smart people.
And it is so much easier to be happier when you are surrounded by other happy people.
You don’t need to cut out every negative person or those having a hard time, but it is worth examining how much time you spend with those people.
It’s hard because personal growth often distances us from unhealthy or negative people who made sense in a previous life stage.
2. You’re lonely and neglecting personal relationships.
Isn’t it odd that in this age of greater connectivity, we feel more alone than ever?
It turns out that getting our personal interactions and friendship through electronic devices and social media actually makes us more lonely and depressed than face-to-face relationships. [source]
Years ago, there were so many more opportunities to have face-to-face interactions with other people, develop friendships, and find belonging in community.
We used church and social clubs to find those connections. But those types of connections and community have fallen out of favor in our busy, modern lives.
We spend more time than ever working or are too tired to get out and make the extra effort to cultivate quality relationships.
It’s much easier to send a couple of text messages or scroll through social media feeds to connect with friends.
Easy isn’t the right path, though. Make time to seek and build more personal relationships that don’t involve electronic devices.
3. You’re too dependent on others for happiness.
Handing responsibility for your happiness to other people is a surefire way to end up sad and disappointed.
Everyone is trying to find the best way to make it through this life with minimal trauma and some peace of mind and happiness. It is not reasonable or fair to put the load of your happiness onto anyone else.
You see this in romantic relationships a lot. You’ve probably done it yourself before…
“If I just find the right person, I’ll be happy. Oh, I did find a great person! They make me so happy! And I have all of these wonderful, brilliant feelings of brightness, infatuation, and lust! I’m so in love! I can’t wait to get married and have a happy little family!”
But then that person doesn’t live up to those romantic expectations, and the sadness starts creeping back in.
Maybe they aren’t your person? Aren’t the right person? Isn’t it supposed to be “happily ever after?”
Well, maybe in storybooks and movies. In life, not so much. In life, you have to deal with tedious, boring, and monotonous things at times.
In life, you may have to deal with terrible, hurtful things that threaten to change how you perceive the world with their injustice. Maybe the love of your life gets into a bad car accident, gets diagnosed with cancer, lives with mental illness, or isn’t the person they represented themselves to be.
You cannot depend on other people for your happiness. It’s too difficult of a problem for anyone but you to hold the responsibility for.
You cannot make and keep another person happy. You can only make them happier. And the same is right for you.
4. You hold onto anger and negativity.
There’s a lot out there to be angry about. Injustice, innocent people suffering, unethical people taking advantage of trusting people, the general state of the world – all things that cause stress, anger, and negativity.
The people in your life may not be that much better. They may not be very good people at all. You might have felt they were, but they ended up slipping and showing more of themselves that they would have otherwise kept hidden.
Perhaps someone wronged you in a way that was hurtful and left a lasting negative impression on you. That’s a hard thing to forgive or let go of when you just want to move closer to your own happiness.
But some people don’t want to forgive or let things go. They want vengeance, justice, or righteousness, even if those things may not be possible.
The truth of the matter is that there are many negatives that either won’t get righted or will take a long time to be righted.
The only people that genuinely care about your anger are people that want to use it as a weapon against you. That goes not only for enemies, but people who claim to be on your side, who keep stoking your anger so you’ll stay focused and involved.
Unfortunately, happiness and anger cannot live in the same space. They just can’t. If anger moves in, happiness moves out.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive for justice or to rectify wrongs. Just don’t live in your anger or hurt while you do it.
5. You feel that you don’t deserve to be happy.
People that don’t feel like they deserve to be happy will often sabotage their own happiness.
They may have a healthy relationship where they pick fights over random things to reassure themselves that they do not deserve to be happy.
They may purposefully make mistakes at work so their boss’s attention will be drawn to them, and they can tell themselves that they aren’t good enough for the job.
The problem with this belief is the word “deserve.”
Does anyone deserve anything? Plenty of innocent people experience great suffering for no other reason than life happens. They don’t deserve it, but it still happens.
And happiness is not something that a person deserves or doesn’t deserve.
They may be able to create it with focused effort and a lot of work. Or maybe their mind trends more towards positivity and happiness, so they don’t have to work quite as hard to get there.
Is one more than deserving than the other? No. Especially when the difficult trials of life start rearing their head.
A parent that loses a child certainly doesn’t deserve that kind of pain; no one does. But we like to think of the positive emotions and experiences of life as deserving rather than something we work toward or may accidentally stumble on.
Everyone deserves some happiness. Whether or not they get some is a different question altogether.
6. You neglect your mental health.
One of the significant causes of unhappiness is unmanaged mental illness.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can severely limit how much positivity you can generate for yourself.
Do you have mental health issues? Are they under control? If they’re not, it may be worthwhile talking to a certified mental health professional about what’s going on, so you can find a way to manage and control it.
Many of them can be managed through lifestyle changes and therapy. People with more severe conditions may need medication to bring their mental illness under proper control.
People who have difficulty finding peace and creating happiness would do well to talk to a mental health professional for additional guidance and personal perspectives.
7. You let negative thoughts and emotions run free.
Happiness can be challenging to create and easy to destroy. One of the easiest ways to undermine your own happiness is by letting negative thoughts and emotions run free.
You must learn how to keep these thoughts and emotions under control if you want to preserve the happiness that you create.
The world is full of negative things. The news is a constant barrage of negative happenings, violence, death, and people being generally awful to one another.
Pessimists are quick to remind us how awful the world can be, though we may already be well aware of it.
These things can’t affect you so intensely if you take care to cultivate your own thoughts, focus on what you can and can’t control, and choose happy thoughts instead of the negative.
You cannot let negative thoughts and emotions run free by dwelling on them. That will destroy your happiness.
8. You’re not chasing your dreams or purpose.
Chasing your dreams and purpose sure is a popular way to sell happiness.
After all, you were put on this earth to do something, right? Something important?
Well, maybe, maybe not. Some people believe that and others don’t.
Have you ever noticed how the people that sell purpose and chasing your dreams as a path to happiness never cover how to handle if your purpose isn’t all that happy?
Like, what if your purpose is being a domestic violence counselor or an elder abuse social worker? Situations where you will regularly see the ugly things people do to each other day in and day out.
It’s hard to imagine many firefighters frolicking happily to their cars to go home after a 24-hour shift where they may have witnessed the worst day some people they helped might ever have.
Is chasing your dreams or purpose a way toward happiness? Maybe, maybe not. But there may come a time when you feel a deep need, a drawing pull toward something you feel you should be doing.
You will find it plaguing your thoughts, maybe even your dreams. It feels like longing. You’ll find yourself wondering about it, should you do it? Should you not do it?
If it is at all possible, you should.
Feeling called to a purpose may not be the key to happiness with what you have to deal with once you’re there, but it is undoubtedly a key to unhappiness if you reject it.
Rejection means you’ll be plagued with doubt and what if’s for the rest of your life. What if I had followed my heart and did what I felt I needed to do? How would my life have turned out? What would be different? Would I have been a better person? Happier, maybe?
No one can know the answers to these questions, but we can say with some certainty that you will regret having to ask them.
9. You’re not setting or pursuing goals.
Goals serve several purposes in building your happiness. A goal is a quantifiable metric that you can use to gauge your progress toward what you want to accomplish.
Every primary goal is the culmination of attaining several smaller goals on the road to success.
Do you want to be an artist? Then you will need to set goals to practice and develop your art a little bit each day until you reach the point where you can be competitive.
Do you want to lose weight? You need to set goals on what you eat and when you exercise to help bring you closer to that goal and your ideal weight.
Goals provide rules and structure in a life that is sometimes chaotic and wild. You may not always be able to find the way on your own, but a set of goals will keep you pointed in the right direction.
Plus, it feels good to attain goals, even the small ones. That can be so helpful in creating a happier life.
10. You neglect your physical health.
It’s no secret that physical exercise directly benefits mental health. The benefits of exercise and improving your body cannot be overstated.
Exercise helps to boost the happiness chemicals your brain produces that combat both depression and anxiety.
Exercise stimulates new nerve cell growth in your brain, which can help alleviate depression and improve happiness.
People who exercise also tend to sleep deeper than those who do not. They burn more energy during their day, which prompts their body to seek more rest when you finally get to bed. That helps with happiness because the brain produces many mood-balancing and feel-good chemicals in the deepest sleep stages.
Get out and get moving! Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your happiness and peace of mind.
11. You need more sleep and rest.
And following that exercise, you may need more sleep and rest!
Life is busy. People are working harder than ever, putting in more hours at work, trying to get through school, trying to find a little fun and stress relief from everything going on in the world.
And the common message in society is that if you aren’t grinding, hustling, or working hard, you must be wasting your time.
That’s just not true.
Human beings are not machines. They require rest and relaxation to recharge their batteries.
If your life is hectic, you may be able to create some happiness by scheduling in specific times for rest and relaxation. Pencil a few hours of rest and relaxation into your busy schedule.
A consistent sleep schedule can work miracles for improving your mood and happiness. Different people have different sleep needs, though. You might need to experiment a bit to find a sleep schedule that matches your circadian rhythm.
12. You neglect your spiritual health.
Spiritual health is kind of a misnomer. Many people interpret spiritual health to mean religious health, but that’s not what it is.
Nourishing your spiritual health is to nourish who you are, what you believe, and what you believe to be right in the world.
It’s creating and consuming art, taking the time to pet dogs, meditating to help bring some quiet to your mind.
It’s connecting with your own spiritual beliefs, if you have them, or doing things that bring you happiness.
Maybe you like to do volunteer work or help clean up litter at a local park, or get out in nature to do some fishing or hiking.
You cannot afford to neglect your spiritual health to build the kind of life you want.
It’s something that you need to remember and take time for, even if it means working it into a scheduled time so you can be sure you’re nourishing that part of your happiness.
13. You compare your life experience to others’ highlight reel.
Social media is responsible for exacerbating depression and anxiety in the people that regularly use it [source].
Though social media offers many positive things, like finding niche communities and connecting with people from around the world, it also offers plenty of negatives.
It amplifies FOMO – the Fear Of Missing Out. It’s hard to be happy and satisfied when you’re looking at carefully curated pictures of friends, family, and random people living their best life.
At the same time, you’re stuck at an underpaying job or struggling your way through college.
It’s easy to forget that these pictures, stories, and videos are a curated highlight reel. Most people don’t share their problems, fears, or difficulties on social media.
And that highlight reel may not reflect reality at all. Those may be some lovely and inspiring vacation pictures, but what you can’t see is the $5,000 in additional debt they piled on because they couldn’t actually afford that trip.
Don’t compare your life to others. Chances are pretty good that people aren’t honestly representing their life.
14. You are needlessly competing with other people.
Competition can be healthy in limited circumstances. It’s not healthy when it starts crossing lines that create adverse emotional outcomes.
So, you want to be the best. You invest hours of your life into practicing, training, and practicing more. You step out onto the big stage to take a shot at the top spot and find out that all of your practicing and training didn’t provide the outcome you hoped for you.
You’re not the best. Maybe you came in second place, maybe you didn’t even make the top five.
That applies across the entire game of life. It doesn’t matter what you do, there will always be someone better, or success may be a fluke of luck.
There will always be someone wealthier, better looking, smarter, happier, or doing better things.
Looking at those people as competition to be knocked off and overcome is not healthy because you’re comparing yourself to their life experience.
An excellent way to counter competitive thinking toward life is to develop an appreciation for differences. It’s much easier to maintain your own happiness when your primary concern is building yourself up, not knocking other people down.
Appreciate other people for their blessings and gifts. Ask questions. Many people will be more than happy to tell you how they accomplished what they did.
15. You attach happiness to experiences or material things.
The pursuit of stuff is a guaranteed way to keep yourself on a happiness treadmill that gets you nowhere.
There will always be someone putting out new and better stuff that will make your old stuff seem worthless and obsolete.
Yeah, that stuff might have made you happy before, but is it something that will keep making you happy? Probably not. Things get old after a while.
But then there is also the belief that one should pursue experiences, not stuff! That’s what will make you happy!
Yeah, it will, for a while. But what happens when life happens, and you can’t afford experiences anymore?
Love to travel? Great! Experience new things, see other cultures, look for that stimulation out there right up until your job falls through, or travel options get cut off.
Deriving happiness from external sources may work for some time. It can certainly help to provide a temporary boost of excitement and something to look forward to.
But is that going to keep you happy when you don’t have access to those experiences or material stuff anymore?
16. You try to maintain control over life.
Life is a wild ride. One minute everything is calm and going as planned. The next minute you’re sliding all over the place, trying to get everything under control.
Life can change on a dime in an instant. All it takes is one bad decision, one wrong action, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time for everything to get upended.
That becomes far less scary when you accept it as a possibility and plan for it.
A life journey can be mapped out with milestones, but it may not be possible to see what’s on the road that connects them.
There may be important things for you to do in your life later, but you need to get through some life experiences now to prepare for them.
There may be pit stops and detours you need to take while you’re on your path.
Plan, but don’t cling too tightly to the plan. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and see where the flow takes you.
17. You’re a perfectionist.
Perfectionism often masks some difficult feelings. It can stem from anxiety about oneself and their environment.
A person who experiences anxiety may use perfectionism as a tool to try to maintain an ideal image to keep their anxiety under control.
The problem is that people aren’t perfect. And trying to impose that perfectionism on other people is a surefire way to cause conflict, resentment, and unhappiness.
Even if the person complies now, sooner or later, they will want their freedom, which means they will rebel and seek to blaze their own path.
Perfectionism may also mask low self-esteem and self-image. The perfectionist doesn’t complete projects because a completed project can’t be judged. It gives the perfectionist an easy out by saying, “Well, it’s just a work in progress. I’m not done with it yet.”
In reality, most reasonable people aren’t expecting you or your work to be perfect. Most work isn’t.
Perfect is the enemy of progress. Embracing imperfection empowers happiness.
You can foster greater self-love by looking at your flaws as unique things of beauty that help make you who you are.
And while it’s true that those flaws may be significant and some are more severe than others, these are always things that can be worked on and polished.
18. You place blame or avoid responsibility for your own happiness.
How can you be happy when you continually make the wrong choices in life?
How can you be happy if you put the burden of that responsibility on the shoulders of others?
It’s your responsibility to make the right decisions that will help you improve your life and preserve your peace of mind.
The people that you date and love can’t do it. Your boss at work can’t do it. The friends you surround yourself can’t do it.
It’s so very easy to try to put that responsibility on others. If only they would act right! Or do the right thing! Or make better choices! Then their choices wouldn’t negatively affect my happiness or well-being!
But that’s not the way people work.
Most people are making their decisions to bolster their own happiness or way of life. They’re working to improve what they have – find love, find happiness, find some peace of mind in this chaotic world.
You can’t spend your time blaming other people for your choices. If you’re unhappy with a situation in your life, change it.
If someone is mistreating you, erect boundaries and don’t let them do that.
If you’re unhappy with who you are as a person, stop making excuses and shoving blame out on everyone else.
It’s yours to deal with.
19. You let fear dictate your life and choices.
It’s natural to be afraid of change and the unknown. This is an entirely human response to something that you’re unfamiliar with.
The problem is that the unknown is where you will experience the greatest growth and new experiences.
You don’t really get anywhere interesting by rehashing the things you already know and the places you’ve already been to. They can be a great comfort, even if they are terrible or ugly, but they’re not where you’re going to find any happiness.
You have to be willing to challenge yourself, think outside of the box, and pursue something new.
You have to be willing to take a leap of faith and have confidence in yourself that whatever you may face – you can handle it.
You’ll always be trapped in your own bubble if you let fear dictate your life and choices.
20. You don’t live and focus on the present.
Happiness can only be found in the present moment. The past is gone, and the future isn’t here yet. Everything you feel and experience is right here, right now.
You’re robbing yourself of happiness if you spend your time reminiscing and pining for a past that no longer exists.
That isn’t all that much different from spending your time fantasizing about a future that may or may not come to pass. No future is guaranteed, no matter how much we want it, plan for it, or work for it.
That doesn’t mean that you should NEVER consider the past or the future. Some people focus so much on the present that they neglect to plan for the future at all. But there does come a point where it becomes unhealthy to daydream about what could be or pine for what should have been.
The present is where everything is happening right now. Suppose you can find a way to make the best of your present situation and appreciate it, whatever it may be. In that case, you’ll have an easier time preserving your happiness.
21. You’re passive and procrastinate.
Procrastination can eat up happiness. By accepting a passive role in life and procrastinating, you are effectively handing off control over important decisions in your life.
If you do not make a choice, other people and circumstances will make a choice for you.
And other people are not going to advocate or fight for your happiness as you will. Most of the time, they are generally more concerned with solving their own problems and building up their happiness.
Procrastination creates new problems with your lack of input and action. Small problems that could have been resolved with just a few minutes of effort can cause much more significant, costlier problems when you don’t address them.
There is a simple, time-saving technique called, “The Five Minute Rule,” which can help you fight procrastination and make a big difference in your life.
It’s simple. If an activity would take under 5 minutes to accomplish, just do it and get it over with. Don’t put it off until later, don’t bundle it together with a bunch of other things, don’t shrug your shoulders and walk away from it… just do it.
You’ll be surprised at how much it helps with everything from cleanliness to staying organized at work.
22. You don’t learn and grow from your mistakes.
Mistakes are an essential part of growing as a person. It’s only by making mistakes and sometimes screwing things up do we realize what is not right for us.
What would happen if everything went well and correctly all the time? You’d probably get complacent. You’d probably get used to things going well and develop an expectation that whatever you did would go well.
But that’s not how life works.
There are very few people that succeed immediately at what they set out to do. It doesn’t matter how much research or planning you do, sometimes things just happen, and all you can do is react to it to minimize the damage.
Some people treat mistakes and setbacks as a catastrophe, mainly if they haven’t made many mistakes of their own.
Helicopter parents set their children up for failure by not allowing them to experience mistakes, so their children don’t know what to do when it happens or think it’s a poor reflection of their character.
But it’s not. Mistakes happen to everyone. It’s what you do with your mistakes that matter.
Learn and grow from them, don’t hide from them.
23. You don’t have enough patience.
Patience is a virtue. It’s a common cliché for a reason.
Patience is a virtue because few things of merit happen quickly or easily. It takes time, regular work, failing, and trying again to build things of value.
The most experienced artists and creators know that you can’t just whip something out on a whim and have it be amazing.
To create something amazing in your life, create happiness, land the dream job, and find the right person to take on life with will take a great deal of patience.
We live in a very instant society where many consumables are on-demand and immediate. Happiness is neither of these things.
No matter how much patience you have, you could probably use a little more of it.
But patience has to balance with goal-setting. There is a point where a line is crossed from patience to ‘this goal probably isn’t working out, so I need a new plan.’
24. You spend too much time looking at screens.
Having too much screen time just isn’t healthy. It also deprives us of our ability to interact with life, grow, and change.
Yeah, binging a series on Netflix while laying on the couch does sound like a great way to spend a day off, but you sacrifice a valuable resource that you cannot reclaim – time. You only get 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, just like everyone else in the world.
How you spend the limited amount of time you are given for this life changes how you develop as a person and where your life will lead.
Not many people want to get up and exercise, study, or do the hard work they have to do to maintain and build their lives. It gets exhausting, and the couch is mighty comfortable.
Watching television or videos, doom-scrolling through social media, or losing yourself in video games don’t build a happier, better life for you. They’re time wasters that will set you back if you let them claim too much of your time.
Rest and relaxation are important. Just make sure you’re not sacrificing too much of your limited time on these time sinks of infinite depth.
25. You are too far in debt.
Debt is a tricky subject for people. Some people have not handled their debt responsibly by buying things they could not afford or overspending.
Or maybe they did handle their debt responsibly; they just didn’t have good enough information to make the right decisions.
Higher education and learning is a good example. There are so many marketing messages aimed toward young adults to jump right into college to get that degree without a fair examination of the challenges that come after:
“Go to your dream school! Who cares if it’ll cost five times more than if you went to community college or trade school! Or even just got a job and worked up the ranks at that company!”
On the other side of the coin are people who think all debt is bad and something to avoid. In many countries, that’s the wrong choice too.
Credit rating is essential for getting reasonable interest rates on auto loans, personal loans, and a mortgage if you ever want to buy your own property.
You can’t rent an apartment or house without a decent credit rating. And you can’t get a hotel room or rent a car without a credit card. Not using credit at all is a bad idea.
Credit is a helpful tool if you practice responsible financial management. Learning how to manage it well will help with your happiness and stress levels.
You may also like:
- How To Be Happy Again: 15 Tips To Rediscover Your Happiness
- 7 Things You Can Do When Nothing Makes You Happy
- How To Be Happy Alone: 10 Tips On Living And Being By Yourself
- How To Be Emotionally Independent And Stop Relying On Others For Happiness
- 30 Common Traits Of Happy People (That You Can Copy)
- How To Be Content With What You Have In Life: 5 No Bullsh*t Tips!