This post: Why am I so unhappy and what can I do about it?
“I feel like something’s missing but I don’t know what.”
My friend and I sat on my front porch, trying to avoid the late summer heat and pondering life over cups of iced tea.
I watched silently as our boys raced across the yard and disappeared around the back of the house. For the moment, I wondered at their ability to live so carefree.
“I try to be happy,” my friend sighed deeply. “But does it ever seem like everyone else always gets the lucky breaks?”
Her words hung heavy in the humid August air.
I don’t remember what I said in response. But I do remember how I felt:
Very much like she’d just named a deep problem with humanity.
Including my own.
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How to Stop Being Miserable
It’s so easy to treat life as if happiness is the goal of everything from marriage + relationships to jobs + religion.
I’ve often believed that:
- My husband should make me happy.
- Friends will make me happy.
- I deserve to be happy (all the time, preferably) in my choice of vocation and lifestyle.
- It’s definitely God’s job to make me happy.
My friend’s question named where we often place the blame when we fail to achieve our goal:
If we’re unhappy, it’s because everyone else gets all the lucky breaks.
But there’s a major caveat:
Personal happiness is always a product of personal choice.
Choice is the one thing–
and the only thing-
we always have absolute control over.
So the quest we should all be on is: how to choose to be happy.
If choice determines happiness, it stands to reason that habits are important.
Here are three habits for a happier life:
This is the problem my friend nailed that day on my front porch.
She assumed– and don’t well all sometimes?- that other people are happy because they get “lucky breaks.”
Kind of like the illusion that you’ll be happy once you have a bigger house, get lucky in love, or discover that you’re the sole heiress of the Queen of Maldovia.
The problem with assumptions is that they always, always disappoint.
Because assuming makes you believe that other people aren’t living where you’re living-
Chances are, your friend with the big house has a friend with an even bigger house (and a bigger garage to keep clean).
Your girlfriend who is happily married has to forgive, work through conflict, and pursue personal growth in order to be a happy wife. (Believe me, there are plenty of miserable wives.)
And about the royal family stuff- we won’t even go there.
Bottom line: The answer to “Why am I so unhappy?” is because you choose to be.
Lower Those Expectations
I’m an idealist.
Expectations have been my greatest nemesis.
Despite my trying too hard, life can sometimes seem like it’s never “enough.”
Never good enough.
Never perfect enough.
Never ideal enough.
Never clean enough.
A quote that has become my mantra is:
There are two ways to be happy: improve your reality, or lower your expectations.”Jodi Picoult
There are a lot of things I can’t really change about my reality, simply because so much of life is not under my control.
But I can lower my expectations.
For starters, I can stop expecting other people to meet my needs.
A few more action points about lowering expectations:
- learn the art of direct communication to express needs + boundaries
- deal with past hurts + baggage (so old hurts aren’t creating unhealthy expectations)
- stop expecting that I can have it all, do it all + please everyone
- give myself permission to be broken + have fall apart days
- decide to choose joy even if nothing ever changes
Bottom line: lowering expectations is a key to being happy.
Gratitude is not a natural human trait.
Specific commands or examples of giving thanks are mentioned in the Bible literally hundreds of times. This strongly suggests we will need to get intentional about it.
For me personally, cultivating gratitude has been a lifelong pursuit- and one that I am still growing in.
The first step I had to take is realizing that ingratitude is the lethal enemy of happiness.
Every time I choose to give in to the Green-Eyed Monster or believe lies about what I “deserve,” I’m also choosing to be unhappy.
It’s that simple.
“The heart that gives thanks is a happy one, for we cannot feel thankful and unhappy at the same time.”Douglas Wood
Bottom line: choosing gratitude is ultimately choosing happiness.
Why am I so unhappy?
Let’s recap some of the habits that make us feel unhappy all the time:
- Assuming happy people just “get all the lucky breaks” in life.
- Hanging on to unrealistic expectations.
- Giving in to feelings of jealousy and feeling like I’m “owed” something.
And the habits for a happier life:
- Stop assuming.
- Lower those expectations.
- Practice gratitude.
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