Happiness is at the top of everyone’s achievements list. At the end of our days here, we want to feel like we were happy and lived well. But oftentimes, we can find ourselves feeling unhappy and we’re not sure why happiness isn’t happening for us.
What are we doing wrong? Why do we struggle to find happiness?
When we figure out what happiness isn’t, we can start recognizing where and when we’re squandering our happiness.
Happiness is a moment-to-moment choice, and it isn’t an end goal, because we’re constantly fluctuating. We need to choose to be happy. Over and over again.
Of course, road blocks pop up constantly. We’ll have an upsetting thought and then we get to decide to let it ruin our joyous moment.
We’ve all been there.
We’re having a great time out with friends and we’ll get an email from our boss about an important memo we were supposed to send out, but didn’t. The boss is upset and suddenly, your day out with friends feels like a bust. That’s a simple example, but instances like that happen so often and we have to choose whether or not to let it ruin our day.
Looking at the reasons and analyzing why we’re unhappy can potentially help us to snap out of unhappiness quicker. We can use tools to bring ourselves back into the light and out of the darkness when hard things pop up.
Here are some reasons you might not be as happy as you want to be.
You’re believing every thought
One of the most life-changing personal development books I’ve ever listened to was Byron Katie’s Loving What Is. The idea is to reflect, using her four questions, to determine what the true reality of any situation is.
When approached with a difficult situation, ask yourself, “Is that true?” Can you really, without any doubt say that your thought is the truth? Oftentimes, it’s not true, but we have crafted our own reality.
Here’s why this is helpful: When you start taking things at face value instead of adding your own expectations, you can recognize where you’re creating a fictional story. What ideas are you making up? And most importantly, how are those thoughts serving you?
You don’t think you’re worthy
Our childhood experiences shape a lot of who we are today and a lot of us have negative mindsets from bad experiences we’ve had. We think that we don’t deserve happiness, because we have pasts and we’ve made mistakes. We’re not sure that we deserve to be successful or if we have the ability to ever achieve it. The lack of self-confidence makes us question our worthiness.
Once someone criticizes us, it wakes something in us up and we suddenly start to look for more evidence to back up the claim. Though it’s difficult, we can try to use criticism to give us feedback and help us become our best self without losing our feeling of worthiness.
You’re waiting for the other shoe to drop
Sometimes we want to expect the worst so that we’re not disappointed when something bad happens. But, the funny thing is, even when we expect bad things to happen, we still end up disappointed.
Why not let yourself get excited about something? We can become so afraid of getting hurt that we don’t want to risk being happy.
You’re not surrendering
You can control a lot of things, but ultimately, there are a lot of things outside of our control. In those cases, giving up control feels really difficult. We want to be the pilots of our lives, but we have to put our trust in something beyond our capabilities. You can’t stop disasters from happening, but you can do your best and then let God (or whatever you believe in) handle the rest. Trust that the universe has your back and learn to be okay with letting go.
You’re caught in a rut
Habits are great to cultivate. They make us better, stronger, and more disciplined. But repetition can cause a feeling of monotony. And sometimes that feeling can make you feel like you’re missing something or like you’re not in the right place. Sometimes a change of scenery is a solution and sometimes the feeling can signal that you need a bigger change. Whatever it is, decide whether or not to make a leap or decide to appreciate your situation.
Let your intuition guide you to make the decision that feels right. Don’t force change for the sake of getting out of a rut, but listen to your body and make the moves that you feel called to show up for.
You’re approaching situations with judgement instead of curiosity
We judge what we don’t understand. We make assumptions based on our experiences, and we are quick to decide what and who we don’t like. What if instead of slipping into judgement, we chose to approach with curiosity? Having a curiosity mentality allows you to wonder and become intrigued about learning more, instead of deciding how you feel about someone or something automatically and closing yourself off to it.
Remember to lead with curiosity and to give people and situations a chance.
You’re seeing scarcity over abundance
If you focus on what you’re lacking in, you’re going to find an abundance of lack. If you instead focus on what you have, you’re going to find an abundance of that. I’d rather have an abundance of richness, personally.
There’s more than enough room for everybody.
You can use it as a mantra if you need to, because this is one of the most important lessons we need to learn. This mindset shift can change your entire perspective.
You don’t need to feel lack.
You don’t need to put other women down. You don’t need to be envious. You don’t need to feel threatened by other people’s success. Because you can have it, too. When and why did we start believing that there isn’t enough room for us?
We can all root for each other. There is room.
You’re not engaged in a gratitude practice
Gratitude can take us out of miserable thoughts, at least temporarily, because it forces us to feel blessed for a moment.
By engaging in a regular gratitude practice, you can focus your attention on what you have that you usually take for granted, like your ability to drive or living in a safe town or even access to clean water.
There are so many ways you can partake in a gratitude practice like keeping a gratitude journal or going for a gratitude walk.
I find that including why I’m grateful helps me feel even more gratitude than simply writing a list. Example: I’m grateful for my bed, because it’s comfortable and allows me to feel rested, so I can have a productive day.
You’re letting others rule your life
People with a people-pleasing personality will relate to this one a lot. When you put your effort into making other people happy, you might find that your happiness starts to dwindle. While it’s admirable and valuable to make other people feel good, you set yourself up to live a life that is dictated by the people you’re trying to please.
It’s usually easier to let other people make decisions for us. We don’t have to do the choosing and we don’t have to feel the blame when things go wrong. But we end up feeling sorry for ourselves in that we’re not becoming the person we thought we would be. And sometimes, you end up not knowing who you are anymore.
Discover more about yourself. Take baby steps to find ways to fuel yourself with self-care that feels good to you, and no one else.
You’re filling your voids with your drug of choice
Your drug could be alcohol, heroin, shopping, binge-watching Netflix mindlessly, or over-eating. The list of potential vices goes on and on. We all have a go-to escape for when life feels tough and we have feelings that we need to process that we want to avoid. While some are more addicting and detrimental than others, they all can become a problem when they take over your life.
Of course, it would be easy to say that we should stop doing our drug of choice and to start getting comfortable with our feelings. That is the solution, but we do want to have temporary escapes: healthier ones.
Escaping to prayer is always my ultimate solution when I’m struggling, but regardless of your spiritual beliefs, try to find an escape that works for you, that revives you in that moment. This could be taking a walk, journaling, taking a bath or reading your favorite book. Whatever it is, build it into a habit. When you feel the impulse to reach for your usual unhealthy escape, choose the better alternative.
And if you fall back into the unhealthy choice, forgive yourself and try again. You can always try again.
You’re not looking within
When you are waiting for him to text you back or you’re worried about what other people are doing, you’re forgetting to worry about your own business. You’re choosing to focus on someone else’s and then, you end up forgetting to live your best life.
Focus on you. You are where your results lie. You do the work. You get the rewards. But none of that happens when you’re focused on someone or something else.
You believe that when X happens is when you will be happy
Your happiness isn’t conditional, and every moment that you choose to believe it is, you’re leaving the present moment. I believe in planning for the future and getting excited about the possibilities, and I often find myself believing that the grass will be greener when I get to [fill in the blank here.]
The problem is that there will always be another X to achieve. We can’t put too much value on “shiny pennies” as Jess Lively of The Lively Show podcast calls it. Love your life where it is. Find more ways to enjoy the journey of life.
Take back your power and choose happiness. Again and again.
Photography by Christian Acosta