Happiness 102: When You’re Unhappy

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Happiness 101: What Happiness Is

Unhappiness comes through stress

Stress comes from unmet needs

  1. Biological & Physiological Needs – i.e., survival
    • Breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, bathroom, physical equilibrium
    • Eating unhealthy food or an eating disorder can make this worse
    • Dehydration is a common cause of unhappiness and depression
  2. Safety Needs – i.e., a general sense of stability
    • Security of body, home/shelter, resources, morality, family, health, employment, property
    • A sense of order and justice with laws enforced
    • Understanding of limits in self, others, and environment
    • Future assurance that things won’t change for the worse
  3. Belongingness & Love – connection with others
    • A feeling of relationship or affection with family, friends, romantic partner, workgroup
  4. Esteem Needs – a sense of self-worth
    • Self-esteem, self-respect, respect for others and by others
    • Feelings of confidence, achievement
    • Having status and reputation in society, responsibility
  5. Cognitive Needs – keeping the mind engaged
    • Knowledge, problem-solving, acceptance of facts
    • A sense of meaning and self-awareness
    • Spontaneity
  6. Aesthetic Needs – being inspired and carrying out inspiration
    • Beauty, balance, form
    • Creativity
  7. Self-Actualization – personal growth and self-fulfillment
  8. Transcendence – helping others towards their self-actualizing

Stress has several parts to it

A stressor is the actual cause of the stress

  • Most stressors are uncontrollable such as weather, other people, and deadlines
  • Controllable stressors can be yourself, your actions, your thoughts, and things you are physically holding

Stress is the psychological condition caused by either the need to perform or the risk of loss

  • Eustress is positive stress that keeps us active and happy (e.g., stress from an alarm clock)
    • Lowers the risk of many fatal diseases
    • Increases social skills and general sociability
    • Makes learning and focusing easier to accomplish
    • Increases our natural mental connection with our body’s instincts
  • Distress is harmful stress that demotivates through inspiring fear and uncertainty
    • It causes waste in every resource you have and usually wastes more than what it would have taken to resolve the distress

All distress can be decreased through understanding and accepting the stressors of the situation

  1. Meditate on your thoughts to find out what’s upsetting you
  2. Recognize what you can and cannot control
  3. Release anything uncontrollable
  4. Focus on managing what can be changed

Pay particular attention to any emotional pain inside yourself

  • Recognize it when it happens
  • Learn how to respond to it before it feels all-encompassing
  • Redirect your gut reaction when you fail
  • Stop the negative thoughts as you witness them happening

Ask which of the unchangeable stressors are in your life

Do you have any chronic problems?

  • It might be money problems, relationship/family problems or deadline challenges
  • You can fix or minimize all of these problems, and the rest of the 100,000 Tips will show you how

Have you experienced any major life changes?

  • It could be moving or changing jobs, someone moving in with you or moving out, getting engaged or newly married, or having a new child
  • The stress from this is entirely natural, and it’s best not to make any more substantial life decisions at this point

Are you happy with your job?

  • Accept that your current life situation could always be worse
  • Explore other options, or accept that you may have to stay where you’re at

Are you happy where you live?

  • Consider moving or giving away your possessions
  • Look at why you’re in the place you live right now and how to change it

Are you happy who you are with?

    • Without strong social skills, this can be a significant cause of anxiety
    • Anyone can be worth being with if there is a mutual connection
    • Take time to get to know them more in-depth
    • Sometimes you are, in fact, surrounded by horrible people, and anyone would feel unhappy about that situation

Are you content with how you see the events of the past, present, and future?

  • This unhappiness comes from ingratitude or anxiety, which the next section covers

Have you suffered a loss recently?

  • You may be grieving, which is highly personal and can be over many things
    • Death of a family, friend, pet or other loved one
    • Family, significant other or other person leaving you
    • The loss of a job, a lot of money or possession of great personal value

Grieving always carries itself through the same five stages

  1. Denial & Isolation
    • Denial is a defense mechanism that buffers the sudden shock
    • Most people rationalize overwhelming emotions
    • It’s a temporary response that carries through the first wave of pain
  2. Anger
    • As the effects of denial and isolation wear down, we’re still not ready
    • We express that in the form of frustration aimed at objects, strangers, friends or family
    • This anger comes from a misplaced need for justice on our terms
  3. Bargaining
    • We often need to regain control when feeling helpless or vulnerable
    • Bargaining usually shows as either regrets or deliberation of “what if’s”
      • Sometimes ambitious people feel that they can “outdo” a loss
    • Many times people try to make a deal with God or another higher power
  4. Depression
    • There are two types of depression related to mourning
      1. Making quiet preparations to separate from someone and bid them farewell
        • A hug is all someone needs sometimes
      2. A reaction to practical implications relating to the loss
        • Sadness and regret are the driving feelings
        • Various problems like burial costs or not having had enough time with loved ones can cause plenty of worrying
        • Others can help through simple clarification, reassurance, helpful cooperation, and a few kind words
  5. Acceptance
    • Not everyone reaches this stage, and it is a gift to reach it
    • Withdrawal and calm are the most evident signs of this
    • Note that acceptance is NOT a period of happiness

At any point, someone can regress and jump back through the stages all the way to denial, but they will have to work through those stages again

Controllable stressors are usually from one of the PERMA missing

P: Positive Emotion – do you have a positive emotion?

Consume something fun

  • Look at cute things, like cute animals or babies
  • Enjoy something funny
  • Look up at the stars

Eat or drink something

  • Have some coffee, tea or juice, especially chamomile tea, orange juice or green tea
  • Chew cinnamon or peppermint gum
  • Eat watermelon, bananas, grapes or avocados
  • Eat food with amino acids like yogurt or nuts
  • Eat pasta, oatmeal, cornflakes or tuna
  • Eat chocolate or candy

Enjoy art

  • Listen to your favorite songs or upbeat music at high volume
  • Look at a work of art

Relax your body

  • Take a bath with rosewater and coconut milk or with Epsom salt
  • Roll your feet over a rolling pin for five minutes
  • Rest for 20 minutes on your back with your legs upright against a wall
  • Take a nap
  • Massage yourself

Reflect on good things that happened

  • Write down things that make you happy, that you like doing, people you love and good things that have happened to you
  • Write down negative thoughts or concerns and throw them in a trash can or fold them up
  • Reminisce about how you’ve changed for the better
  • Tell yourself one thing you are grateful for

Use other stress relievers that release endorphins

  • Smile for 60 seconds
  • Touch money
  • Squeeze the fleshy spot between the index finger and the thumb
  • Blow on your thumb
  • Laugh, even if it starts out sounding fake
  • Visualize yourself winning and succeeding
  • Forgive a lingering grudge

E: Engagement – are you experiencing a state of flow, anchored in the present?

Do something physical

  • Go for a walk
  • Do full-body stretches
  • Dance
  • Do a full workout
  • Clean out a closet or do household chores, which also brings clarity to the physical world

Create something

  • Sing or play music
  • Draw or paint something
  • Write a book
  • Make something you’ve needed to make
  • Paint out feelings or write them down in a journal
  • Throw a paper airplane

Do something different or new

  • Leave work early (with permission)
  • Change your routine
  • Take a different route
  • Learn a new skill or doodle
  • Take a calculated risk on something that will improve you

Live in the present moment

R: Positive Relationships – do you have meaningful and positive relationships with others?

  • Spend time with happy people
  • Encourage someone
  • Enjoy your pet
  • Have fun with some friends
  • Hug someone
  • Listen to other people’s problems
  • Spend some time with someone over age 70 or under age 6
  • Vent to a best friend
  • If you’re married, have sex
  • Find others to share with who won’t judge or condemn you

M: Meaning – are you serving a cause bigger than yourself?

  • Say hello to a stranger
  • Go to church or join a church
  • Join a club
  • Help someone who needs help
  • Volunteer somewhere
  • Share love openly with everyone you meet

A: Accomplishment/Achievement – have you bettered yourself in some way?

Become more productive

  • Clear your clutter
  • Break large tasks into bite-sized portions
  • Make a list of things to be done
  • Set priorities in your life

Push past your limits

  • Learn something new
  • Do something uncomfortable you’ve meant to do
  • Do the one to-do that you dread the most
  • Find a bad habit to stop
  • Challenge yourself outside your comfort zone

Take stock of your achievements

  • Write down a list of your skills
  • Find new achievements you can reasonably attain

High expectations make us unhappy

The lower your expectations, the happier you’ll be

  • Some of the happiest people have the least possessions or accomplishments
  • Some of the most miserable people have unlimited resources at their disposal
  • Set very low standards for yourself, things, and others
    • If you must have high standards, be ready to forgive when they’re unmet

The Paradox of Choice: the more variety of choices, the more dissatisfied you’ll be

  • The more choices, the more satisfied we expect ourselves to be with that choice
  • That extra expectation of satisfaction contributes to our unhappiness

Fight the Paradox of Choice by removing possible choices

  • Control your expectations
  • Learn to love constraints
  • Make an actual choice about when and where you want to choose
  • Be an active chooser instead of merely a “picker” by weighing out pros and cons
  • Look for the “best” option less frequently and choose an acceptable available option more often
  • Calculate how much energy you’re wasting on simply deciding
  • Make your decisions final and irreversible
  • Adopt an “attitude of gratitude”
  • Spend less time regretting your decision
  • Expect that you’ll have to adapt
  • Minimize how much you compare yourself to others and their choices

Once you’ve gotten past the unhappiness, prepare to make long-term changes

Next: Happiness 103: After The Slump