Precisely the least, the softest, lightest, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a flash, a moment – a little makes the way of the best happiness. ~Frederich Nietzsche
It may not be inaccurate to say that the pursuit of happiness is one of the main goals that humans continually strive for.
But often, lasting happiness remains elusive because of annoyances and habits that counter balance and keep people in the zone of unhappiness.
Instead of looking at what makes us happy, perhaps it would be a good idea to look at the resistance and little stones or blockages in the stream of happiness.
What are some of the things that make us unhappy and that chronically unhappy people do differently?
I would like to mention here that this post is not a judgment or a way to criticize people who cannot find their center of happiness.
Every person experiences unhappiness at some point or the other and if we gently understand what makes us unhappy, we can begin making the subtle and necessary changes.
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1. Belief That Stress and Worry Will Make Them More Productive
“Never hurry and never worry.” ― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web
Many people believe that being stressed out and worrying incessantly about things will make them more productive and get things done. Society seems to have accepted that a certain amount of stress is part of the occupational side effect.
Unhappy people allow stress and worry to overwhelm them and carry the burden of tension in their bodies and their minds.
Ninja stress or hidden stress that builds up due to the chronically busy and stressful life style depletes out the happiness quotient and puts them in the negative for joy and contentment.
Dr. Wayne Dyer rightly says since you cannot go get him a pound of stress, it is certainly a mental construct and can be disallowed or dismantled.
2. Happiness Depends On The Behavior And Actions Of Others
“Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” – Groucho Marx
Unhappy people have a need to make someone else or something else responsible for their levels of happiness. They actively relinquish control of their own happiness and make it contingent on the actions and behaviors of others.
Not surprisingly, outsourcing happiness always ends up making them dissatisfied.
They refuse to take back the active control of their happiness thermostat setting back onto their own hands.
They refuse to schedule fun “self time” and do not end up doing things that make them happy since they are busy waiting for others to make them happy.
3. Not Taking Personal Responsibility And Not Playing The Lead Role In Their Life
You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness.- Brené Brown
A sure and quick way to remain unhappy is to stay in the sidelines in life and play out the script someone else has written out and live out their dreams and wishes.
Unhappy people do not realize that their story matters a lot. As a result of that, they refuse to take charge of their life with a definite sense of purpose and live a script of their own choosing and crafting.
They give up on chasing their major goals and dreams and end up on the sidelines in their own life.
4. Over Scheduling and Under Delivering
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey
Chronically unhappy people over schedule their precious time in an attempt to look good and mask self-worth issues.
They refuse to replace quantity with quality and never become comfortable with the idea that their work is good enough for this world.
5. Trying To Be A Perfectionist
“Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.” ~Leonard Cohen
This is a sure recipe for lasting unhappiness because the quest for perfection is a myth. Usually, a lot of uncertainty, vulnerability and self-struggle issues remain hidden behind the seeming mask of perfection.
A way out is to have the courage to embrace imperfection in all its beauty and joy.
Unhappy people serve the harsh master of perfectionism and do not follow the more forgiving quest for excellence and simple pleasures and joys that truly make them happy.
6. Being Inflexible With Their Unrealistic Expectations
“There were two ways to be happy: improve your reality, or lower your expectations”― Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes
Expectations that cannot be fulfilled are a quick and easy spiral into the despairs of unhappiness and misery.
Unhappy people rigidly adhere to their idea of how something ought to turn out without realizing that it brings them a lot of unhappiness.
They never become flexible and creative with their expectations and rarely allow for alternate outcomes.
7. Allowing Their Anger To Control Their Life
Anger is just anger. It isn’t good. It isn’t bad. It just is. What you do with it is what matters. It’s like anything else. You can use it to build or to destroy. You just have to make the choice. – Jim Butcher, White Night
Anger can be a great emotion to fuel us into action and do something worthwhile in our life but being consumed by it and being stuck in an angry story is a recipe for unhappiness.
Unhappy people never assess how much negative control anger has on their lives.
They never learn how to channel their anger into something productive by taking the right actions and making their life feel better.
Unhappy people feel the anger and allow it to linger and fester inside of them without making a conscious effort to let it go.
8. Allowing Fear To Rule Their Life
“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” – Japanese proverb
One of the most potent happiness killers is fear and it manages to keep many people in lives of mediocrity and unhappiness.
Unhappy people listen to the stories that their fears whisper and believe them. This belief in their fearful stories always keeps them from taking great action on what truly matters.
Breathe into the fear, transform it into excitement and take action to clear the fog of fear.
“In time we hate that which we often fear.” ― William Shakespeare
9. Being And Taking Themselves And Everything Too Seriously
Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. ~ G. K. Chesterton
Unhappy people take themselves excessively seriously and are habitually difficult on themselves and on others.
They do not give the wiggle room to account for the many snafus that inevitable befall and ensnarl life, and unhappiness is sure to follow quickly.
The remedy is to laugh it off, lighten themselves and shake off the serious bug.
10. Constantly Comparing To Others And Thinking That “Some People Have All The Luck”
“Comparison is the death of joy.” ― Mark Twain
Unhappy people do not realize and believe that they are utterly unique and special. They never ask and reason: “Why should I compare myself to others? Let me make the best of what I have.”
They go around with the belief that good luck is the prerogative of a few people and are quick to point to a comparison and put themselves down.
They do not care that what appears masked as good luck in others is hard work, inspired action, preparation, improvisation and enthusiasm.
They do not figure out that they too will become lucky in life if they choose taking action on what matters to them and letting go of constant comparison.
11. Letting Worries Snowball Into A Crisis
“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.” – Michel de Montaigne
Most people have worries but only the habitually unhappy allow their worries snowball into a huge crisis.
The solution that unhappy people never get around to implement is to cast aside the worry while it is still a small ball of snow as it rolls downhill and replace it with empowering thoughts.
They do not block worry with belief or redirect it with hope and joy.
12. Feeling And Acting Isolated
“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”― William James
Unhappy people want to do it all alone and get uncomfortable delegating tasks to others because they have trust issues.
It is not a surprise that trying to do it all by themselves makes them feel deeply isolated and makes them act from that vantage point.
The best solution is to attempt to meet people half way and actively pursue connections and relationships. But tragically, unhappy people never make forming deep and meaningful connections and relationships a priority and never make time for nurturing them.
13. Jumping From System To System To Self-improve
“It’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you use that makes a difference.”― Zig Ziglar
Unhappy people do not realize that they do not need to “improve” themselves because there is nothing inherently wrong with them as humans.
They refuse the gentle nudge, small reminders, self-acceptance and self-love in favor of chasing tools and quick fixes to make them perfect.
They do not allow the re-discovery of their radiant self. They do not attempt to wash away the dusts of perception and judgment and habits that do not serve.
They are so busy chasing the best system that they do not have the time or motivation to implement what they are learning.
They “collect” information and move from system to system in search of an epiphany, an a-ha moment but all too often there is none to be found.
14. Not Making Time For Their Creative Pursuits
“There is the happiness which comes from creative effort. The joy of dreaming, creating, building, whether in painting a picture, writing an epic, singing a song, composing a symphony, devising new invention, creating a vast industry.”― Henry Miller
This is a sure way of building up resentment and unhappiness because we are all inherently highly creative individuals. We have all been bestowed with the same amazing mind and the same power of imagination, enthusiasm, and emotions.
The real reason why unhappy people do not pursue their creative adventures is because that they are afraid of rejection or failure.
15. Being A Personal Martyr
“The only person who can pull me down is myself, and I’m not going to let myself pull me down anymore.”― C. JoyBell C.
Unhappy people allow everyone walk to over them and end up not asserting their own voice. Feeling like a martyr and expecting others to make concessions or understand their viewpoint is a quick setup for failed interactions.
People quickly become unhappy and uncertain around people who do not take care of themselves and have expectations and ego requirements that are difficult to fulfill.
16. Dwelling In Emotions And Feelings That Make Them Unhappy
Treat negative emotions like negative people. Acknowledge their presence and make whatever changes are required to remove them from your life.-Unknown
If there are strong emotions that linger such as shame, guilt, sadness, worry, fear that act like super-glue and do not resolve, they cause much suffering and unhappiness.
The key is to recognize the role they are playing in life and choose alternatives such as re-direction and allowing to let go. But unhappy people display learned helplessness when it comes to managing and letting go of difficult emotions and feelings.
“The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” Carlos Castaneda
17. Being Excessively Attached To People And Things
“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”- Lao Tzu
Unhappy people get overly attached to people or things. They carry this attachment to the extent that they do not give others some downtime or the room to breathe.
This makes others in their life feel uncared for and eventually resentful.
If attachments are based on fear, control and need, they cannot generate happiness. If attachments are based on love, compassion and empathy, they lead into happiness.
18. Putting Everything Off For Later
“In delay there lies no plenty.” William Shakespeare
A common thread in unhappy people is that they move from crisis to crisis and from problem to problem. Creative and priority based procrastination may be a good thing but they carry it to the extreme.
However, they do not admit that their procrastination is based on fear, uncertainty and the fear of discomfort. They remain in denial that putting everything off for later enhances their unhappiness because of the threads of incompletion everywhere.
They do not realize that action is a muscle that when exercised regularly enough becomes a habit.
19. Not Appreciating And Being Grateful For What They Have And Hoping For Something Else
“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” ―Ralph Waldo Emerson
When we fail to see the value and beauty of what we have with us, life becomes a chase of something that will not end up bringing any happiness and contentment.
Unhappy people cannot find anything to appreciate in the right here and right now, and are unable to appreciate their life when they receive what they believe is missing in their life.
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” ―Epicurus
20. Not Valuing Their Work And Their Contribution And Having Poor Self Belief
“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it. ”― M. Scott Peck
The chronically unhappy believe that their work is inherently worthless and their “fakeness” will be revealed, and happiness will be impossible to achieve.
Self-worth and value are inside jobs and no matter what people show on the outside, unless they change the way they view their self at the deepest level, happiness can be elusive.
21. Being Crushed And Defeated By Failure
“We are all failures – at least the best of us are.” – J.M. Barrie
Many people have a warped idea of success to be a straight line and are ill equipped to deal with the inevitable failures that life doles out.
Real success is a highly curved path that teaches lessons along the way but quitting at the first bend is a sure recipe for eventual unhappiness.
In fact, unhappy people fail to realize that the lessons along the way including the challenges to overcome them are the real reward and intrinsic motivators of a worthy life.
22. Staying in the comfort zone
A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what a ship is built for. ~Unknown
Ironically, the safety of the comfort zone is eventually more scary and unproductive and crushes dreams, hopes and desires.
It is counter intuitive but the more people face their deepest fears and do things that scare and excite them at the same time, the more they will experience deep and lasting happiness.
There is just something great about a challenge and striving towards a worthy goal that is deeply satisfying but this still means taking a risk and moving out of the comfort zone.
Unhappy people can never really muster up the courage to set sail and stay comfortably tethered to their comfort zone in the harbor.
23. Choosing Not Too Accept Themselves And Living In Shame
“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” – Nathaniel Branden
Unhappy people feel like they are not good enough for this world and have a habitual feeling and experience of shame about their life and attempt to mask it with external stuff.
They are unable to make little steps into the realm of self-acceptance and love themselves unconditionally because they are their own harshest critic.
24. Allowing Others To Perturb Them Easily And Getting Emotionally Fused
Unhappy people allow the emotional state of others to manipulate them into losing their center of happiness and equanimity.
They are barely aware of it but they assume the dominant emotional state around and get emotionally fused to others. This invariably makes them go through an emotional roller coaster that exhausts them and makes them unhappy.
25. Expecting Great Things At The End Of A Journey
The journey is the reward. – Taoist saying
Unhappy people are so hyper-focused on the destination that they forget to enjoy the scenery along the way. People who expect a big reward or feeling at the end of their journey are setting themselves up for a lot of unhappiness.
The greatest rewards, lessons and accomplishments do not happen at the end but along a journey, along the struggle, along the trials and discoveries.
26. Being Overwhelmingly Pessimistic And Negative
“In the long run the pessimist may be proven right, but the optimist has a better time on the trip.”-Daniel L. Reardon
Is it any surprise that excessively pessimistic and negative people are chronically unhappy?
Constantly seeking the negative and why things will go wrong do not allow the benefit of other possibilities which are routinely ignored .
27. Being Self-centered And Not creating Value To Others
“For it is in giving that we receive.” ― St. Francis of Assisi
A lot of unhappiness is generated by striving only to satisfy an unquenchable self-interest. Unhappy people miss all the joys of giving, contributing and the satisfaction of serving and uplifting others.
The best way to lift their moods out of the doldrums is to uplift others from theirs and serve them unconditionally. Service has its own intrinsic value in the form of deep contentment and satisfaction.
28. Expecting The Worst In All Situations
“Our limitations and success will be based, most often, on your own expectations for ourselves. What the mind dwells upon, the body acts upon.” ~Denis Waitley
One of the common features of the chronically unhappy is expecting the worst to befall and vigorously quote murphy’s laws about how everything is going wrong all the time.
The truth might be that things are going right half the time but due to the “negativity bias” of the brain and the inherent strength and stickiness of negativity, they are only focused on what is going awry.
29. Not Scheduling In Enough Down Time Between Appointments
“To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.”- Jane Austen
Everyone needs down time. I have heard Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer say that we are human “beings” and not human “doings.”
Rest, relaxation and down time are vital for the incubation phase of creativity and also keep the exhaustible motivation levels high.
Being chronically overworked and sleep deprived is a fast track to a life of unhappiness and overwhelm.
The quieter you become, the more you can hear.- Ram Dass
30. Taking Everything Personally
“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
Unhappy people do not assess the disruption of taking everything personally. They do not agree that it is a fast track towards unhappiness and do not see that people around them will feel like they are walking on eggshells.
And it also gets exhausting for them to have a huge emotional response and feel deeply upset at the smallest of things.
31. Reacting To Everything And Not Giving The Time For A Good Response
Unhappy people are quick to react to things and do not realize that however difficult it may be, they still have the choice to respond.
They choose not to learn how to respond and habitually act from that state of reaction.
This increases conflict in their personal relationships and decreases their levels of happiness.
32. Leaving Incompletions Everywhere
“It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.” -Zig Ziglar
Unhappy people leave incompletions and incomplete projects everywhere unable to decide how to proceed and staying in analysis paralysis. Whenever they see the incompletions, they feel bad about themselves and experience cognitive dissonance.
They want the projects completed ideally but the reality is that things pile up.
This ideal-reality conflict robs them of their current moment of happiness.
33. Being Excessively Judgmental And Critical To self And Others
“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.” ― John Wooden
Another quick way to unhappiness is having a little critical voice that demeans the self and puts others down either mentally or verbally.
A chronic critical and judgmental attitude makes it impossible for them to experience joy.
34. Being Closed Minded To Fresh New Ideas And Perspectives
Keep your hands open, and all the sands of the desert can pass through them. Close them, and all you can feel is a bit of grit.-Taisen Deshimaru
Unhappy people are averse to learning new experiences and display a closed mindset.
The closed mindset is a recipe for failure and unhappiness because life itself is changing and unpredictable.
There is something wonderful and rewarding in having the beginners mind and being able to allow other experiences and ideas in and be open-minded to learning.
35. Having The “why me” Or “my lot will not improve” Syndrome
I used to think I was a victim of my story until I realized the truth that I am the creator of my story. I choose what type of person I will be and what type of impact I will leave on others. I will never choose the destructive path of self and outward victimization again.”― Steve Maraboli
The unhappy person asks “why me” but the happy person asks “why not me” and goes to do something about it and experiences the happiness of accomplishment and overcoming a difficulty.
36. Having A Lack Of Curiosity, Wonder And Fascination
“The world is not changed by people who sort of care.”-—Sally Hogshead
People who lack or suppress their natural curiosity and do not view life through a filter of wonder or fascination end up getting cynical and jaded. They call others who are happy as having “rosy glasses” or being “polyannaish.”
Being highly curious and having the ability to get fascinated with the ordinary is a wonderful art few people end up mastering.
37. Having A Lack Of Enthusiasm For Life
Every great and commanding movement in the annals of the world is due to the triumph of enthusiasm.- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Enthusiasm is the magic ingredient that distinguishes a highly happy person from someone who is continually bored and unhappy with their life.
Finding things to be enthusiastic and looking forward to them is a wonderful happiness booster.
38. Thinking The World Is Not A Safe Place And Everyone Is Out To Get Them
There are people who are secure and feel safe in the world and there are people who view everything with suspicion and like everyone’s out to get them.
Unhappy people find that it is difficult to experience the joy of life because they are emotionally closed, tense and expect danger at every corner.
39. Not Developing A Higher Meaning And Purpose And Drifting From Crisis To Crisis
“Happy people have two things in common. They know exactly what they want and they feel they’re moving toward getting it. That’s what makes life feel good: when it has direction, when you are heading straight for what you love.” – Barbara Sher
Unhappy people drift from the inevitable crisis to the next.
Happy people make it their business to find meaning and purpose in their life. They go all out to fulfill and accomplish that objective and thus giving them a huge happiness boost.
40. Being Chronically Unprepared And Doing Everything At The Last Minute
Happy people understand the power of the last minute tension and chaos to get the extra mile of creative powers and produce something awesome.
However, working under tight creative deadlines is not the same as being continually unprepared and saving all the work for the last minute, which is one of the hallmarks of unhappy people.
41. Getting And Staying Overwhelmed
“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau
Unhappy people manage to overwhelm themselves by making everything too complicated. By setting up simple but effective systems in their life, anyone can avoid the trap of overwhelm and increase happiness.
Unfortunately, people usually get a temporary mental or psychological reward for not taking charge and staying in the state of overwhelm.
And tragically, this reward does not offset the listlessness and unhappiness that they chronically feel by staying in the “fight or flight” mode generated by the chaos and overwhelm.
42. Not Minding The Feng Shui And Living In Piles Of Clutter
“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Having piles of clutter everywhere that quickly gets unmanageable is a quick route to dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
Clutter can be mental, physical or emotional. Unhappy people fill up their life with needless clutter that makes them unhappy and unproductive.
They would greatly benefit by making their life simple and functional.
43. Feeling Constantly Hopeless
“Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stop at all.” -Emily Dickinson
Hope is a powerful happiness creator.
Feeling continually hopeless is a way into despair, stress and eventually into a state of constant unhappiness.
44. Being Excessively Motivated By Hate And Revenge
Happy people Allow strong emotions to serve them by using them as leverage to make their life even more awesome and do not get stuck in them or manipulated by them.
Unhappy people are excessively driven by their anger, rage and revenge. More often, they ruminate in their minds and chronically reduce their levels of well-being and joy.
45. Speaking Too Much And Listening Little
“Spend your leisure time in cultivating an ear attentive to discourse, for in this way you will find that you learn with ease what others have found out with difficulty.”― Isocrates
One of the great keys to happiness and deep connection with other people is the art of listening deeply like the other person really matters.
Unhappy people are constantly looking to jump into a conversation, dominate it and win every time. They experience temporary victories but lose the eventual feeling of contentment and connection.
There is something very deeply satisfying about connecting with others and listening to then as if they matter. The genuine compassion shown by real listening makes both the listener and the speaker feel great and generates a lot of happiness.
46. Assuming Everything
“The least questioned assumptions are often the most questionable” – Paul Broca
Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups. The less people assume things about their life and the life of others, the more they are able to experience authenticity and reality as it really is.
Unhappy people are quick to jump into conclusions and assume the worst and are unwilling to see the other points of view.
47. Having A “know it all ” Approach To Life And Showing It Off
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”-John Wooden
Happy people know that being a “know it all” is condescending and disrespectful to others and is a relational disaster.
Moreover, “knowing it all” removes the wonderful feeling of surprise and discovery and makes everything the same old thing.
The discovery and exploration of a life of learning is a great internal motivator and happiness creator.
Unhappy people shut off others and other’s opinions and are always trying to score points by showing how intelligent and great they are. They are usually most comfortable dominating conversations and sticking to their point of view even if it is completely illogical.
48. Having A Sour, Sullen And Insufferable Attitude That Nobody Wants To Be Near
“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitude of mind.”— William James
And finally, happy people have mastered this amazing ability of having and actively cultivating an attitude that makes them happy and makes everyone else want to be around them.
Happy people realize that attitudes are contagious and also know that once they smile and display a great attitude, happiness naturally ensues. Having a great attitude is the surest and fastest way into the realms of happiness.
Unhappy people have this backwards and do not mind their attitudes and thus causing much unhappiness to themselves to others around them.
Now over to you! Please let me know in the comments below if this post resonated with you and how do you find your center of happiness?
Photo Credit: Kat Northern Lights Man via Flickr CC
Thanks Harish for this effort! Will keep coming back to this list whenever I feel Low 😀
Harish Kumar says
Thanks a lot for your comment, Sheeba!
This defines my life..wow…all 38 of them!
I’ll get working on them!
oops, I meant 48! (accepting myself as imperfect…) 🙂
Thanks a lot for you comment, Steve!
I am glad that you found the post to be of some value. Welcome to LYG and hope to see you soon again!
Have an inspired weekend.