Five Reasons You May Be Unhappy

Just as important as finding out what makes you happy is knowing what makes you unhappy.

Reasons you are unhappyAlthough circumstances can zap your joy, in the end, it is your attitude, thinking, and behavior that dictates whether you are happy or unhappy.

Like Marcus Aurelius wisely said, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

With that in mind, the following are five destructive habits and negative attitudes that can get in the way of your happiness. I’ve also included a few thoughts on how to overcome these behaviors and thinking patterns so you can retain your joy even during difficult times.

So here we go:

You Hate Change

I’ve lived half a century now. When you’re my age, it’s easy to find your comfort zone and stay there. Keep in mind though that boredom can lead to unhappiness. Click here to read my article on why it’s so important to embrace change.

I’m not saying you have to go sky diving or swim with the sharks. However, don’t be afraid to try new things. Take a weekend trip to somewhere you’ve never visited before, try a new food, listen to different music, or learn a new language.

Don’t settle either. Happy people get themselves out of ruts and those same-o boring routines and make the necessary changes to meet their ever-changing needs, wants, and goals. In other words, they start heading in the direction they want go.

You Worry Too Much

Okay, confession time. I am so guilty of this one.

Even though I know worrying doesn’t solve problems or stop something bad from happening. Even though I know my energy would be much better spent changing what I can control and letting everything else go. Still, I have a tendency to overthink situations and feel anxious over things I can’t control.

So what do I do when I catch myself stressing out? Meditate on spiritual matters, try to get enough rest and sleep, write in my journal, do some Pilates, or read a book. I ask myself, what’s the worst thing that can happen? If the answer isn’t death, I force myself to move on.

For some more tips, check out my past blogs, Five Ways to Manage Stress, Five Ways to Quit Overthinking,  Five Easy Relaxation Exercises, and Five Ways to Stop Worrying.

You Hold Grudges

There’s a great quote by Mark Twain: “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

Anger, bitterness, and resentment are toxic. Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. For all you know, the person you’re so angry with could be having the time of their life without giving you a second thought while you waste all your time stewing in negative energy.

As I wrote in my article, The Value of Forgiveness, it is only through forgiveness that you will find peace, freedom, empowerment, and happiness.

You Are a Perfectionist

When I was younger, this was a real problem. Although I’m much better at being happy with “good enough,” every once in a while I catch myself wanting life to be perfect. Which, of course, it isn’t! Social media can make this problem worse if you constantly compare yourself to everyone else who is bragging about their jobs, weight losses, or families.

Not only does perfectionism lead to frustration because it is unattainable but it is also a bad habit that contributes to low self-esteem.

So let go of perfectionism. Learn to focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Quit worrying about what other people think. Don’t take life and yourself so seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself and the absurdity of life. In other words, lighten up!

You Hang Around Negative People

Do you have people in your life that literally drag you down with their negativity? Maybe they are selfish, vicious gossipers, complainers, manipulative, overly dependent, or just plain miserable people.

What can you do?

Walk away. Yes, I mean it! Detox your life of negative people. True, they may become angry or act like a victim at first, but you must stick to your guns for your own emotional well-being. Don’t beat around the bush or defend yourself; be consistent and firm. It’s okay to fire your friends if the relationship is not working anymore.

Perhaps you can’t completely eliminate some of the negative people in your life. In that case, establish boundaries for your own sanity. Don’t be afraid to let them know when they cross them. Limit your time with them as much as possible.

So there you go. Do any of these five habits ring a bell? If so, make the necessary changes and find the joy and balance in life that you deserve.

 Image courtesy of pakorn at


Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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7 Responses

  1. rod says:

    Like Marcus Aurelius wisely said, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” Sometimes this is true but not always. Let us suppose you have people depending you all the time year after year and never get a day off. How would that be ‘in your way of thinking’?

    So looking at your list, ‘You woory too much’ might actually mean you have too much to worry about.

    • juliegorges says:

      If you or someone you know is in that type of situation, you certainly have my sympathies. As a full-time caregiver for my 77-year-old mother, who has Lewy Body dementia (a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s), I can certainly empathize with those circumstances. My blogs are often notes to myself, because sometimes I feel overwhelmed and there are even moments when I feel like I just might go crazy. As I wrote in a former blog on this subject, several people who have been in similar situations as mine have stressed the need to take breaks – and they are absolutely right. Even if you have tons to worry about, you must take a break from that as well. The same rule applies for caregivers as parents on an airplane. “Put your own oxygen mask on first.” I have learned to ask for help, to care for my physical, spiritual, and emotional needs, and recognize my limitations. It’s certainly a work in progress, I won’t pretend that I feel happy all the time. Staying positive through the most challenging experience I’ve had so far in life is anything but easy. But I believe with all my heart that we must keep trying.

      • rod says:

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Julie. I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s condition. I have problems with my mother but also much more intractable ones with my daughter, so I have some idea of what you might be going through. I agree with you about the need to have a break, something I have not yet managed to do. But I can’t agree with Marcus that these problems are in our ‘way of thinking’ since they exist independently of anything we might think.

  2. Linda says:

    Hi Julie,

    Thank you for the inspiring article, and when I give it some thought, I must say that I am a happy person. Bit all the tips you give would have applied 15 years ago, before I stopped worrying, when I was still a perfectionist and when I didn’t know how to say no. I’ve learned… one step at a time and I must say that I am now finally able to maintain my balance and my energy, no matter what.


  3. Summer says:

    I really enjoyed this article. I especially liked your comment “…what’s the worst thing that can happen? If the answer isn’t death, I force myself to move on.” Something I need to remember. I think worrying is the biggest thing that holds me back. And then it compounds when I start worrying too much I get overwhelmed and I need to just remember you eat an elephant one bite at a time. Only worry about the one thing in front of me and then when I complete it I can move on to the next bite. Thanks Julie!

    • juliegorges says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience with tendencies we all have to fight. And yes, the comment you mention is my mantra whenever I get stressed. It really works for me!

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