5 Self-Destructive Habits of Chronically Unhappy People

The unhappiness syndrome and what to do about it

Thomas Oppong
Jul 9, 2020 · 6 min read
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Illustration: Lorenzo Miola

All of us want to be happy, right? Of course, we do.

Unfortunately, not all of us know how to be happy or how to deal with a temporary setback in our pursuit of happiness.

When people get stuck in those temporary setbacks, they can easily forget that happiness is never out of reach — unless they place it out of their own reach.

Try to avoid these five belittling habits that prevent unhappy people from staying the course to happiness.

Unhappy people complain a lot

Life is a journey and along the way, the road can get bumpy.

The bumps and annoyances of life are enough to make anyone complain. You’ve done it. I’ve done it. The problem with unhappy people isn’t that they complain, it’s that they don’t stop complaining.

When complaining goes on unchecked, it soon becomes habit, then quickly becomes second nature. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive.

Unhappy people allow complaining too much sway and soon get out of the habit of talking about the good times they’ve had.

According to research, complainers are less satisfied during their workday and their bad moods even spill over to the next morning.

Apparently, complaining is also bad for your brain and your health. Venting also floods the bloodstream with cortisol — the stress hormone.

Tips for coping — and putting complaining to rest:

  1. Learn to use positive language and encouraging words to the people around you and to the man or woman in the mirror.
  2. Practice seeing the silver lining instead of the cloud and the roses instead of the thorns. Don’t give up when life doesn’t go your way.
  3. Celebrate the good times, treat yourself to a small reward, and greet each day with optimism.

Unhappy people are their own worst critics

Not many things will enhance your life as easily or readily as knowing your own strengths and acknowledging your own limitations.

As important as it is for each of us to know our limitations and work within or around them, it’s just as important not to get lost in those limitations.

Unhappy people are their own worst critics often going from criticizing to denigrating in no time flat.

“Being overly critical of ourselves can increase anxiety about a setback. But overthinking, or ruminating on what happened, is like agonizing self-criticism on repeat,” Rachel Simmons wrote in The New York Times’s guide to overcoming failure.

That little voice in unhappy people’s head forgets how to congratulate them and focuses too much on every little mistake — which none of us is immune to. When an unhappy person messes up, they seemingly forget they can rebound from a mistake.

“Remember, you have been criticising yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens, ” says Louise Hay, a motivational author.

Tips for silencing your inner critic:

  1. Learn to accept your mistakes, acknowledge them, put them behind you and keep moving. Stop expecting perfection from yourself and focus instead on continued growth and on doing better tomorrow.
  2. Stop looking for what’s wrong about you and everything you want to pursue, and see what’s right about you instead!
  3. Focus more on what could go right instead of wrong. When you catch yourself criticising, stop and be realistic about what can actually happen when you concentrate on getting stuff done instead of thinking about them.

They wait for someone or something to make them happy

Unhappy people are always searching for happiness. Many people are waiting for something to happen to them to make them happy or someone to make them feel happy.

Happiness is being responsible for your own experience.

You are responsible for your own life experiences. Whether you are seeking a meaningful life or a happy life.

If you expect others to make you happy, you will always be disappointed. Being responsible means not blaming others for your unhappiness.

It means figuring out ways to be happy despite others’ (negative) behaviours and despite the external influences.

Viktor Frankl, author of the best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning says “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance”.

The all-important truth about happiness is this: your happiness depends much more on your attitude and what you choose to do than it does on others or external circumstances.

Instead of looking to get happy from a person or a job, or an external factor, view relationships and/or work as outlets for happiness, and focus on how you can give more happiness.

Tips for exercising your brain for happiness:

  1. Seize the day! Treat each day as the treasure it is, embrace each day’s freshness for the newness it offers, and make each and every single day count.
  2. Don’t put off starting your personal passion project, writing your book, or embarking on that adventure you’ve been thinking of lately.
  3. For more positive experiences, learn to become your own competition — stop comparing yourself to others. Choose to become a better version of yourself, not the version someone else expects.

Unhappy people don’t know how to forgive

Forgiveness can be incredibly difficult but i’s essential for your emotional growth. Here’s the thing about forgiveness: It isn’t for the other person.

It doesn’t absolve them of their wrongdoing or make them see the error of their ways. What forgiveness does is let you off the hook. It means taking power and control out the hands of the other person and putting it back into your own.

Remember, too, that forgiving does not mean forgetting. It doesn’t mean putting yourself in a position to be hurt by the same person, again and again. That would not be wise.

Instead, it means acknowledging that you were wronged but putting the wrong behind you and getting on with your life. It means being less critical of yourself.

“Working on forgiveness can help us increase our self-esteem and give us a sense of inner strength and safety,” writes Robert Enright of The Greater Good Magazine.

How to let go and forgive:

  1. Forgiveness means you are letting go of the anger and pain, and moving on to a better place mentally.
  2. Make a new agreement with yourself to stop focusing too much on the past experience, especially when you recognise that the pain is hurting you.
  3. Resentments can strain or ruin relationships — you get trapped in a cycle of anger and hurt and miss out on the beauty of life as it happens. Choose to respond differently by focusing on your positive experiences.

It’s not easy — but you can learn to bring your focus back to the present.

They spend too much time with other unhappy people

Whoever said that misery loves company was absolutely right — you attract the energy you give, thus negative people attract more negative people.

Few things keep unhappy people unhappy like nursing their bad moods and have others indulge them while they wallow in self-pity.

While empty words and platitudes will not offer tangible help in trying times, having others bolster you during difficult times can go a long way.

Many mishaps, missteps, and misfortunes in life can lead to unhappiness.

The loss of a job or of a beloved family member, a serious financial setback, or an unwanted end to a romantic relationship — all these things can lead to unhappiness.

While you should never sidestep your emotions and should always allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling, staying unhappy for too long can do more harm than good.

Unhappiness that is fed a steady diet of negative talk and self-retribution might never give way to happiness.

What to do about it:

Choose the company you keep very carefully, surround yourself with happy people as often as possible — seek out the company of more positive and optimistic people.

By spending more time with people whose behaviour you want to emulate, you will slowly train your brain to think and act more like them.

Happiness is not something you get, wait for or seek — but something you are and experience. Something you are responsible for.

Unhappy people complain, spend too much time in the company of others, hold a grudge, don’t practice forgiveness, and consistently wait on others to make them happy.

For a happy life, learn to be responsible for your own experience, forgive yourself and others more often, live in the moment, and choose a circle of positive friends. It’s not easy. But with practice, change is possible.

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

Thomas Oppong

Written by

Founder @AllTopStartups | Featured at Forbes, Business Insider, etc. | Join my personal newsletter for life and career tools at https://postanly.substack.com

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

Thomas Oppong

Written by

Founder @AllTopStartups | Featured at Forbes, Business Insider, etc. | Join my personal newsletter for life and career tools at https://postanly.substack.com

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

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