Happiness 102: When You’re Unhappy

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Happiness 101: What Happiness Is

The more variety of choices you have, the more dissatisfied you’ll be

  • There are ways to fight this Paradox of Choice
    • Control your expectations
    • Learn to love constraints
    • Make an actual choice about when you want to choose
    • Be an active chooser instead of merely a “picker”
    • Accept an available option as sufficient more often and look for the “best” option less frequently
    • Calculate how much energy you’re wasting on simply deciding
    • Make your decisions unable to be reversed
    • Adopt an “attitude of gratitude”
    • Regret less about your decision
    • Expect that you’ll have to adapt
    • Minimize how much you compare yourself to others and their decisions
  • 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
    • Either set low standards or set high standards for yourself, things and others but very quick to forgive
  • Pay attention to emotional pain inside yourself
    • Recognize it when it happens
    • Learn how to treat it before it feels all-encompassing
    • Redirect your gut reaction when you fail
    • Stop negative thoughts as you witness them happening
  • Find others to share with who won’t judge or condemn you

Unhappiness is usually from one of the PERMA missing

  • Meditate about your thoughts to find out what’s upsetting you
    • Most of the time, unhappiness comes from not being challenged outside our comfort zone enough
    • Many times it can be ingratitude at current circumstances
  • 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 flavored 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
    • Forgive a lingering grudge
    • Enjoy art
      • Listen to your favorite songs or extremely upbeat music at a high volume
      • Look at a work of art
    • Relax your body
      • Take a bath with rosewater and coconut milk mixed in or dissolve Epsom salt in it instead
      • Roll your feet over a rolling pin for 5 mins
      • Rest for 20 mins on your back with your legs upright against a wall
      • Take a nap
    • 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
    • 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
  • E: Engagement – are you experiencing a state of flow where you’re 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 actually need to make
      • Paint out feelings or write them down in a journal
    • 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
    • Throw a paper airplane
  • R: Positive Relationships – do you have enough meaningful, 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
  • M: Meaning – are you serving a cause bigger than yourself?
    • Say hello to a stranger
    • Go to church or join a church
    • 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 that you’ve been meaning to do
      • Do the one to-do that you dread the most
      • Find a bad habit to stop
    • Take stock of your achievements
      • Write down a list of your skills
      • Find new achievements you can reasonably attain

Sometimes the unhappiness simply comes from stress

  • Stress management is about working with the components of stress
    • Stressor – the cause of the stress
      • What you can’t control – most stressors, from the weather to other people to many deadlines
      • What you can control – yourself, your actions, your thoughts, things you are physically holding
      • In general, recognize what you can and cannot control, then release what can’t be controlled
    • Stress – the psychological condition caused by the need to perform or the risk of loss
      • Eustress – positive stress that keeps us active and happy (e.g. stress from an alarm clock)
        • There is a lower risk of many fatal diseases with enough eustress in your life
        • Eustress increases social skills and general sociability
        • Improves learning and focus
        • Increases natural mental connection with the body’s instincts
      • Distress – negative stress that demotivates by inspiring fear and uncertainty
        • Causes waste in any resource you have, usually more than the cost of resolving it
      • Any distress can be alleviated by understanding the underlying stressors of the action
  • Stress comes from needs that haven’t been met
    1. Biological & Physiological Needs – i.e. survival
      • Breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, bathroom, physical equilibrium
      • Sometimes eating unhealthy food or an eating disorder can affect this
      • Dehydration is a common cause of unhappiness and depression
    2. Safety Needs – i.e. general sense of stability
      • Security of body, home/shelter, resources, morality, family, health, employment, property
      • Laws being enforced and there being a sense of order
      • Understanding of limits in self, others and environment
      • Future assurance that things won’t change adversely
    3. Belongingness & Love – connection with others
      • Feeling of relationship or affection with family, friends, romantic partner, work group
    4. Esteem Needs – a sense of self-worth
      • Self-esteem, self respect, respect of 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 ultimately self-actualizing

Stress often comes from outside circumstances that can’t be changed

  • Do you have any chronic problems?
    • This can include money problems, relationship/family problems or deadline challenges
    • These problems are connected to yourself, and by going through the rest of this site you’ll learn how to fix all of them
  • Have you experienced any major life changes?
    • This includes moving or changing jobs, someone moving in with you, someone moving out, getting engaged, newly married or having a new child
    • The stress from this is completely natural, and just make sure that you don’t make any major 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
  • Are you happy who you’re with?
    • This can be a major cause of anxiety if you don’t have strong social skills
    • Anyone can be worth being with if there is a mutual connection
    • Take the time to really get to know them
    • Sometimes you’re actually surrounded by horrible people, which is normal to feel unhappy about
  • 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 an emotionally significant possession
    • There is no time limit or a “right” way to do it, but the stages of grieving are always manifest in some way
      1. Denial & Isolation
        • Denial is a defense mechanism that buffers the sudden shock
        • It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions
        • It’s a temporary response that carries throught 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 anger aimed at objects, strangers, friends or family
      3. Bargaining
        • Often you need to regain control when feeling helpless or vulnerable
        • This usually manifests as either regrets and deliberation of “what if’s”
          • Sometimes ambitious people feel that they can “outdo” a loss
        • Many times people secretly make a deal with God or other higher power
      4. Depression
        • There are two types of depression related to mourning:
          • A reaction to practical implications relating to the loss
            • Sadness and regret are the driving feelings
            • A lot of worry can come from various problems like burial costs or not having had enough time with loved ones
            • This is typically remedied from others by
              • Simple clarification
              • Reassurance
              • Helpful cooperation
              • Some kind words
          • Making a quiet preparation to separate from someone and bid them farewell
            • Sometimes you may just need a hug
      5. Acceptance
        • Not everyone reaches this stage, and it is a gift to reach it
        • This is marked by withdrawal and calm
        • This is NOT a period of happiness, but is clearly not depression
    • At any point someone can regress backwards through the stages all the way to denial, but they have to work back through the stages again
  • Are you content with your perspective about the past’s events, the present and the future?
    • This unhappiness comes from ingratitude or anxiety, and these take a change that will be discussed later

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

Next: Happiness 103: After The Slump