Some say that happiness is a choice, and where they may be some psychological pushback to that statement, the fundamentals of the concept are true. All of us have had the experience of waking up on the wrong side of the bed and immediately recognizing that we are a major “crankypants.” Sometimes, it’s simply because we didn’t get enough sleep, or tweaked a part of our body while sleeping. Perhaps remnants of a bad dream are lingering in waking hours. You might be ruminating on a deeper issue at work or in your personal life, and those thoughts are dominating your happy/carefree time. Whatever the cause, we do have a choice to get out of the funk, which usually involves changing our perspective,and/ or relationship to the stimuli around us.
Now of course, just being cranky is different than feeling fundamentally unhappy at your core. Pervasive unhappiness or unease can be labeled as depression, and it can feel incredibly heavy. Suffering from a long-term bout of unhappiness can stem from many areas, but for the most part, it can be narrowed down to fit into one of these categories.
1. Fear: This is intended to be a broad category, as it addresses many subtopics, such as self-esteem. A lack of self-esteem is typically a fear of not being good enough or being afraid that you are not living up to standards/expectations from yourself and/or others. Fear can also be associated with loss or being alone; never finding “the one” or losing someone/something important in your life.
2. Lack of drive; nothing to look forward to; bored: Many of us will never feel like we are fulfilling our true potential because we waste so much time doing nothing. We have so much choice these days that it can be paralyzing to have to choose what to do, therefore leaving us feeling empty. Without a long-term goal to keep working towards, we can feel rudderless.
3. Conflict with self or others: This is a beast of a category right here as it truly covers the bases when it comes to deep unhappiness. When we are engaging in an activity or life choice that takes us away from who we are at out core, we will inevitably feel conflict, and unease. When we are in conflict with another person, it can feel just as daunting as we struggle to find the right course of action with the least amount of consequences.
With these many varying degrees of unhappiness, getting out of the feeling boils down to making tiny choices throughout the day that help lead you back to feeling more stable and on top of things. If you don’t have the bandwidth presently to do the deeper work, then here are some life hack tools to guide you back into a more positive place.
-Distance yourself from the feeling: Use language such as I FEEL unhappy, as opposed to I AM unhappy. The feeling is fleeting, not a permanent state of being.
-Name the emotion as something other than it is: You may be experiencing what you label as "unhappiness" in your body, ie: tension in your shoulders, an upset stomach, headaches. That’s your body’s emotional response. The feeling can be whatever you want to name it. You can rename it as excitement or anticipation for a change.
-Acknowledge that its hard not to think about: Sometimes unhappiness comes from obsessing over something we have no control over. If you acknowledge to yourself that it’s hard not to think about, and give yourself a little break, it can eliminate some of the guilt of the obsession, which in turn helps you ruminate less.
-Fake it till you make it: Act like a happier happy version of yourself. You’ve been happy before, and you will be again. Do you remember what it felt like to be happy? What were you doing at the time? Try to repeat some of the actions you were doing when you were happiest.
-Get out and move: The energy around you can influence your state of mind. Stagnation can make you feel tired and bored which can mimic unhappiness. Get out of your house and into nature to cast off some toxic energy!
-Give yourself some self-care: It’s critical to know what makes you feel good for you, because self-care looks different to everyone. It can be as simple as sitting with a cup of coffee or going for a walk; saying no to something you don’t want to do or allowing yourself to do something you’ve always wanted to do. Find one thing that rejuvenates you and do it!
Remember that happiness is a moment to moment choice. One bit of information can change the temperature of your day, but how you choose to respond to it will have the greatest effect on your mood. When you link together each small choice towards happiness, it will inevitably shift your perspective, and before you know it, you will start to feel the heaviness of a funky mood disappear!