How to Break the Miserable Habit of Being Unhappy

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.

 I choose sweet tea + I choose to be happy. | Kristy's Cottage blog
I choose sweet tea + I choose to be happy. (photo credit: Fran Hogan)

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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.

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Here are three habits for a happier life:

Stop Assuming

This is the problem my friend nailed that day on my front porch.

She assumedand 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.

Miserable people have habits. Kick those.
Miserable people have habits. Kick those. (photo credit: Content Pixie)

Why?

Because assuming makes you believe that other people aren’t living where you’re living-

in reality.

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:

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Bottom line: lowering expectations is a key to being happy.

Practice Gratitude

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.

Is happiness a choice? Why am I so unhappy? | Kristy's Cottage blog
Is happiness a choice? (photo credit: Nathan Dumlao)

β€œThe 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:

  1. Assuming happy people just “get all the lucky breaks” in life.
  2. Hanging on to unrealistic expectations.
  3. Giving in to feelings of jealousy and feeling like I’m “owed” something.

And the habits for a happier life:

  1. Stop assuming.
  2. Lower those expectations.
  3. Practice gratitude.

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Your Turn

Is happiness a choice? Drop a comment below and tell me what you think.

16 thoughts on “How to Break the Miserable Habit of Being Unhappy”

  1. Thank you…. I don’t know how to express how this encouragement has truly blessed me,… I didn’t realize I wasn’t enjoying life, (my children, or my husband, or a homey, less then clean house) like should be,…. If I only had permission to enjoy anything and everything good even in chaos and imperfection. I always thought and I should be able to keep a perfect perfect house, like friends I have, even though they’re lives are so different. My husband is a high energy business owner/operater, I have 3 high energy boys, the oldest is 4, l milk half a dozen goats everyday, make a lot Greek yogurt and cheese, plus train horses in my “spare time”… but to me it’s never enough,…. And it’s not, ” I” and the things I do will never be enough without my Savior. But “He” is enough, and because He is in me, I am enough, if I choose to abide in Him!
    2 Corinthians 3:5-6 … wow, thank you I really needed it God bless!

    Reply
    • Wow, you are a busy lady, Sarah! I definitely understand the feeling that what you do is never “enough”. I’m so happy you were encouraged and refreshed here, my friend!

      Hugs!

      Reply
  2. A good reminder for this perfectionistic mom (who never quite achieves that just perfect day, in which the kids behaved, didn’t make any dreadful messes, schooling went wonderfully, fun even, with no fussing baby, the meals were on time and really healthy too, the house looks good, and the closets and cupboards look even better, an extra project got tackled, and I even had loads of energy to warmly welcome my dear husband home and got the well behaved children to bed early, easily, and had an uninterupted 2 hours with him, because supper and kitchen cleanup only took 5 minutes…) yeah… Thank you – and please enjoy your day too! πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Yes, Priscilla… those are the kinds of day I expect to live, as well. Unfortunately, they don’t happen very often! πŸ™‚

      Reply
  3. Great post, Kristy!
    I find myself pretending to be joyful day by day, pretending to be that great mom, worker, friend, Christian, housecleaner etc., when the whole time my heart is heavy with the weight of knowing it’s never enough. This really helped me today.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Ruth. Trying to be “enough” truly is a heavy weight, and one I’ve carried for years. It’s so freeing to let it go… but sometimes I find myself picking it up again. Grace is a daily, intentional walk…

      Reply
  4. You are a voice for what so many of us moms feel. I struggle to find joy on these imperfect days where the kids whine and fight even after a lesson on how to walk in love with each other. Thank you-I needed this!!

    Reply
    • Heather, it’s funny that you mentioned that “the kids whine and fight even after a lesson on how to walk in love”. Just last week, I found myself getting so frustrated as I was trying to teach my kids a devotion with Sally Clarkson’s book, Our 24 Family Ways, because they had bad attitudes even while we were talking about how to have Christ-like character.

      Sometimes, it really feels like a waste of time! But it’s not… line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little… we plant, and God waters with His Holy Spirit to bring forth fruit in our children’s lives.

      But, yes, we certainly don’t see it on a day-to-day basis!! In so many ways, motherhood really is a walk of faith… and it’s very easy to lose sight of the bigger picture in the middle of the daily chaos. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  5. Great post. It’s amazing how something so simple as giving ourselves permission to not be perfect and to enjoy what we have been given is something we forget to do but can change so much. Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply
    • Lisa, letting go of perfection is so simple and basic… but it can be tough at the same time! For me, it’s very much a daily, intentional decision to choose right attitudes and an eternal perspective.

      Reply
  6. Kristy, you have blessed me yet again with your honesty and grace! Keep writing these inspiring, encouraging posts because they touch more people out there than you will ever know! πŸ™‚
    Your Sister in Christ,
    Kaitlin

    Reply
  7. Yey…just another inspiration to brighten up my day. πŸ™‚ It’s always so nice to have a read here in your cottage Kristy! Love and thank you for being such a blessing to many.

    your always thankful friend,
    Mitch πŸ™‚

    Reply

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