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What's really making you unhappy?

Ask any number of people and you’re unlikely to have anyone admit to wanting to be unhappy. And yet, no matter how hard we try, there often seems little we can do to change our perspective on life and find ourselves suddenly happier. The trouble is, we spend so much time chasing the things that we think will make us happy, that we overlook even the simplest things that are making us UNHAPPY! In this article, we take a look at 7 of the things that could really be making you unhappy.

Like many of us, you might think that getting that new outfit, new car, new piece of furniture, or some other ‘thing’ is going to make you feel great. And the truth is, for a limited time, it might. But what’s happening in the long-term is that you’re spending your money accumulating ‘stuff’ – which means getting into debt, feeling the need to work harder and longer, and then trying to maintain all of these possessions – and creating greater unhappiness in the process. In our recent blog, MINIMALISM: Is All Your Stuff Making You Unhappy?, we uncover how this compulsion to collect ‘things’ rather than experiences could be making you miserable, as well as how to overcome the compulsion.

According to a recent study conducted by Purdue University, debt and unhappiness are strongly linked. Results showed that while having more money can make people happier (as a result of greater financial freedom and less stress), having debt can detract from happiness and cause worry and stress. Unfortunately, mounting debt is a part of our consumerist culture: the more we try to make ourselves happy by collecting ‘things’, the unhappier we become as a result of higher levels of debt and the associated financial strain. And then of course the more money we make, the more we spend, so the cycle never ends! In fact, this recent Harvard Study shows that the happiest people have more time and less money – “Instead of spending time to get money, truly happy people spend money to get time.”  Reducing debt can reduce stress, so it’s time to stop spending your hard-earned dollars of collecting stuff and start paying down those credit cards!

It’s no secret that getting into shape is great for your physical health, but it also does wonders for your mind. A lack of physical exercise can contribute to unhappiness for several reasons, including lower levels of endorphins (the hormones released when you exercise, which make you feel great), lower physical health, and low self-esteem. One of the best ways to look better, feel healthier and ultimately feel happier is to get out and start exercising. The most effective way to do this is by seeing an experienced personal trainer, who can help to develop a personalised training program and most importantly, keep you motivated.

This is a big one! Gratitude has been proven to be one of the most powerful tools for creating happiness. Not feeling grateful for the things we do have, and instead focusing on what we don’t have, can be the biggest thief of happiness. It takes some practice but showing gratitude each and every day for even the smallest of blessings in life can make an immediate and lasting effect on your mental health and your levels of happiness. Start with writing down three things each day that you’re grateful for and just take a few moments to reflect on the what each of these things bring to your life; you’ll soon notice the difference.

Irrational thinking is associated with many mental health concerns such as stress, anxiety, depression and even phobias. It’s also strongly correlated with feeling unhappy. An impaired ability to think about situations clearly and rationally can make us feel hopeless. One of the most common irrational thoughts that many of us have is the belief in the ‘arrival myth’. This is the idea that once you ‘arrive’ at a certain point (such as getting that new job, losing weight, or finding a new partner), you will instantly be happy – and that the happiness will last forever. This robs us of our ability to enjoy the present moment and to have gratitude for our life as it is. Check out more about this important topic in a past blog – How to be Happy: Stop Trying to be Happy.  Whilst we should always be striving to reach our goals, it’s important to remember that no single achievement is a fail-safe way to guarantee happiness.

A lack of support is one of the most common reasons leading to unhappiness and yet one of the most overlooked. Support comes in many forms and can include the support of family and friends in our daily lives, the support of our co-workers and supervisors at work, and the support of a counsellor or psychologist to help out if you are ‘stuck-in-a-rut’.  Each of these types of support is important when it comes to helping us to feel motivated, cared for, and loved. However, the latter type of support is often overlooked due to the idea that counsellors and psychologists are only there to support people with serious mental health concerns. Whilst these professionals play a hugely important role in supporting people suffering from depression, anxiety and other serious concerns, they are also an invaluable resource for those of us who are feeling lost, unhappy or experiencing a lack of motivation or direction in life. Which brings us to our next point…

Do you find yourself a little lost?  Or does life seem to lack meaning or purpose?  Perhaps you find it difficult to stay motivated, or simply aren’t sure what you want to do with your life. A lack of direction can make people incredibly unhappy. On the flip side, having a clear idea of the direction that you want your life to go in can bring a great deal of happiness, motivation, and offer something to look forward to. Lacking direction is very common, and fortunately, is something that a life coach can help with. (Read more about our life coaching programs and how they can change your life here.)

Like most of us, you’ve probably been overlooking one (or perhaps most) of these most common reasons for unhappiness. However, if after reading this hopefully you’re inspired to make some positive changes. But if you’re still finding yourself unable to shake your unhappiness and could use some help to uncover the real reasons behind it, reach out to Integrated Health Specialists today and find out more about how we can help you! 

Michelle van Namen
Author: Michelle van Namen